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27 February 2012

Jesus! thy Crucifix

Jesus! thy Crucifix
Enable thee to guess
The smaller size!

Jesus! thy second face
Mind thee in Paradise
Of ours!
                                                            - F197 (1861)   225

Life can bring a heaping measure of pain, but Christians hope that Jesus will help them bear it. Dickinson isn’t asking here for Jesus to take the pain away, but only that he understand. She suggests that because of the agony he suffered during crucifixion he can “guess” the smaller pain of our human hurts. It doesn’t sound like a strong prayer –  there is probably little doubt among Christians that Jesus understands our pain. No need to remind him about his time on the cross.
            In the second stanza she is asking that his “second” resurrected face reminds him in heaven of our human faces. “Faces,” I take here mean more than faces but stand in for our human, fleshly selves. I think she’s implying that there is an actual body in Heaven.
            The poem is configured as a prayer with the first two lines of both short stanzas written in parallel structure. As usual, Dickinson cuts words and syllables to get the utmost concision. “Crucifix” is used rather than “crucifixion”; “Mind” is used rather than “remind”; “The smaller size” is used rather than “The smaller size of our pain.” I sometimes think of her creative process as akin to long-distance travelers who, forced to lighten their load, toss everything they can out the back of the covered wagon. Her extra words and syllables litter the prairie behind her.


  1. the "second face" also evokes the veil of veronica

    1. I had to look up the reference; very interesting! Thank you.