The Wind does not require the Grass
To answer — Wherefore when He pass
She cannot keep Her place.
Because He knows — and
Do not You —
And We know not —
Enough for Us
The Wisdom it be so —
The Lightning — never asked an Eye
Wherefore it shut — when He was by —
Because He knows it cannot speak —
And reasons not contained —
— Of Talk —
There be — preferred by Daintier Folk —
The Sunrise — Sire — compelleth Me —
Because He's Sunrise — and I see —
Therefore — Then —
I love Thee —
F459 (1862) J479
Is Dickinson paying an homage to Elizabeth Barrett Browning here? Browning's sonnet “How do I love thee?” might very well have caught Emily’s eye. Dickinson would also have been familiar with King Lear’s daughters and their answers to Lear’s question about how much they love him. But here Dickinson addresses a more interesting question: Why do I love you? Her answer is … because he is such a force of nature, like wind and lightning and sunrise, that there is no question of not loving.
|Cordelia (Diana Rigg) in a frustrating
exchange with King Lear (Paul Scofield)
Similarly Dickinson begins her answer by saying that although the wind blows the grass the wind doesn’t require the grass to explain why it is swaying. The wind is quite aware of why the grass moves. Likewise, the man surely knows why the poet loves him. It is beyond the wisdom of woman and grass, to understand. It is enough for them to have the “Wisdom” to recognize the power of the force that moves them.
In the same vein, the Lightning has no need to ask an eye why it shut while lightning flashed. It knows full well that eyes can’t talk; neither can folks “Daintier” than the lightning put their reasons into words: they cannot heave their hearts into their mouths.
In the last stanza, Dickinson adopts the first-person voice and makes the poem personal. The Sunrise compels me, sir, she says, because … well, “He’s Sunrise” and I have eyes in my head to see it. That’s the reason I love thee. You are my sunrise. Please don’t ask me any more questions!