"Morning" – means "Milking" – to the Farmer –
Dawn – to the Tenerife –
Dice – to the Maid –
Morning means just Risk – to the Lover –
Just Revelation – to the Beloved –
Epicures – date a Breakfast – by it –
Brides – an Apocalypse –
Worlds – a Flood –
Faint-going Lives – Their Lapse from Sighing –
Faith – The Experiment of Our Lord
- F191 (1861) 300
This is a list poem that explores morning by listing what it means to various people. The first stanza uses the format “Morning means …” for each line. In the second stanza the format changes and each line has to be jiggled a bit. Here’s a reconstruction and paraphrase:
Epicures plan their delicious breakfasts in the morning
Brides experience an Apocalypse the morning after
Worlds experienced a flooded world one morning
Faint-going Lives wake up and temporarily cease their sighing in the morning
Faith is the experience and suffering of Jesus who died in the belief that he and humanity would be resurrected in the morning that follows death. (Note: Dickinson used “Experiment” at times to mean “Experience,” “feeling,” or “suffering” [per the Emily Dickinson Lexicon: http://edl.byu.edu/lexicon/e/40].
|Morning not so great if you
weren't on that ark
The grammatical sketchiness of the poem makes the reader is an active participant in the meaning. Why, for example, does morning mean “Dice” to the maiden? Is she trying for her chance at love and marriage? Is marriage just a game of chance? “Risk – to the Lover – ” may mean the risk of discovery: oops – he’s overstayed and now dawn is breaking. But why “Revelation” to the Beloved? Has she been awakened to physical love for the first time? Or is seeing her lover’s face beside her in the glow of dawn a revelation? Reader, I leave it to your own opinions. I personally find it a very rich way of writing poetry.
|Morning not so bad if you
are a farmer
But note that each stanza begins with easy list items and then graduates to the harder. Sure, morning means milking to the farmer – it’s what he does every darn day. Sure, it means dawn on the sunny isle of Tenerife. But then the associations become less clear and more provocative. In the second stanza we can feel pretty confident about the association of breakfast with morning – and the anticipation of gourmet epicures for that repast. And we can imagine that the first morning of wedded life is, for the bride, something of an apocalypse in her life. Everything has changed. And so it goes on to that difficult last line.