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12 June 2012

Ah, Moon – and Star!

Ah, Moon – and Star!
You are very far –
But – were no one farther than you –
Do you think I'd stop for a firmament –
Or a cubit – or so?

I could borrow a Bonnet – of the Lark –
And a Chamois' Silver Boot –
And a stirrup of an Antelope –
And leap to you – tonight!

But – Moon – and Star –
Though you're very far –
There is one – farther than you –
He – is more than a firmament – from Me –
So I cannot go!
                                                            F262 (1861)  240

Here a star-gazing lover contemplates the great gulf between herself and her beloved. She looks at the moon and perhaps Venus, the Evening Star (true, it’s a planet not a star, but it looks like a bright star), and thinks that she could sooner reach them than the man she loves. If he were closer, say as close as the moon, than she could leap and fly through the sky – the “firmament” – like a lark, or chamois, or antelope to reach his side. Alas, he is even more distant, and the poet realizes she can never bridge that gulf.
photo of Moon and Venus by Vinish K. Saini
            Dickinson begins with a childlike tone, sighing to a personified moon and star in a simple rhyme. She daydreams about leaping out in space. Like a superhero she would take on the lark’s aerodynamic crest, the nimble “Silver Boot” of the alpine chamois, and the fleetness of the antelope. She could do it “tonight!”
            But then, again in childish tone and rhyme, she tells moon and star that since the one she loves is even “farther than you,” she “cannot go!” Although the tone is somewhat playful here, the poet is wistful about her difficult relationship. She wouldn’t let a “firmament” stop her, but physical distance does not seem to be the problem.  Her lover may be indifferent or simply unavailable.


  1. Your blog is amazing, thanks for your work. I have to do exams at school about Emily Dickinson's poems, you helped me so much! ;)

    1. In my opinion these explanations are not amazing, only good. They often don't explain how to decrypt difficult syntax.

  2. I agree with Susan's observations here, and I think that the beloved here - as in so many other cases - is God, Jesus, Christ. Only the greatest was big enough for her. It might have started as a thought of a far awaw lover, and then have taken on the shape of the Greatest.

  3. Why on the earth would be the beloved one God or Jesus? On Jesus we are always told that he is very close. Apart from that nothing alludes here to anything other than unnamed person, probably a lover or a friend.

  4. Franklin's work metadata inform us that there are "Two [manuscripts], variant, about 1861 and 1862, both in fascicles. The earlier is in Fascicle 11 (h 36), recorded about late 1861. There is no evidence that a copy was given/mailed to a friend.