Knows how to forget! But could It teach it? Easiest of Arts, they say When one learn how Dull Hearts have died In the Acquisition Sacrifice for Science Is common, though, now— I—went to School But was not wiser Globe did not teach it Nor Logarithm Show "How to forget"! Say some Philosopher! Ah, to be erudite Enough to know! Is it in a Book? So, I could buy it— Is it like a Planet? Telescopes would know— If it be invention It must have a Patent— Rabbi of the Wise Book Don't you know?
F391 (1862) 433
It's easy to remember but oh so hard to forget. While that may not be true for classroom lessons, it is, sadly, mostly true for emotional knowledge. Dickinson here explores how she might learn the art of forgetting, but comes up empty.
The first stanza has an "It" that seemingly does know how to forget. Perhaps "It" is a school of thought or a philosopher's teaching. Dickinson's tone is very skeptical. She scoffs at the idea. Forgetting might be the "Easiest of the Arts," as the ubiquitous "they" say, but those depressed and "Dull" with unhappiness "have died / In the Acquisition" of the knowledge. Oh well, that's just the cost of a scientific experiment. Ouch!
School didn't teach such practical subjects. The poet didn't learn the art of forgetting in geography or math. But "some Philosopher" is "erudite / Enough to know!" Dickinson wishes she were equally learned. If only he'd put his ideas in a book. She continues her scoffing: "Is it like a Planet?" Is it an invention? If so, "It must have a Patent."
At the end she pleads with Jesus, the Rabbi of the New Testament. "Don't you know?" This isn't the first time she has tossed a little barb at the deity for not being helpful. I'm sure it won't be the last. In the meantime, the poet will have to discover on her own how one forgets. Hopefully, she won't become another sacrifice for science.