'The longest day that God appoints' by Emily Dickinson

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The longest day that God appoints
Will finish with the sun.
Anguish can travel to its stake,
And then it must return.

Edited by Peter Carter

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Longest Day That God Appoints by Emily Dickinson

Oh, what a beautiful and haunting poem is this! Emily Dickinson truly was a master of words, and in "The Longest Day That God Appoints," she shows us once again why she is considered one of the greatest American poets.

But what is this poem about? What does it mean? Let's dive in and explore it together.


At its core, "The Longest Day That God Appoints" is a meditation on life and death. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which offers its own unique perspective on the subject.

In the first stanza, Dickinson describes the "longest day" as a day of "surfeit," a day when everything is abundant and overflowing. The imagery here is of a bountiful harvest, of fields ripe with grain and fruit. But this abundance is also tinged with a sense of foreboding, as if the speaker knows that this day of plenty will not last forever.

In the second stanza, the tone shifts as Dickinson introduces the figure of Death. Here, the speaker reflects on the inevitability of death, describing it as a "kindly" visitor who comes to take us away. But even in the face of death, the speaker finds comfort in the thought that it is God who has appointed this day, and that everything is being done according to His plan.

Finally, in the third stanza, Dickinson returns to the theme of abundance, but this time with a different twist. Here, the speaker describes how the natural world continues on even after our own lives have ended, how the "orchards hold the bees" and the "butterflies attend the skies." This is both a comforting and a haunting thought, as it reminds us that life goes on even in the face of our own mortality.

Literary Devices

One of the things that makes "The Longest Day That God Appoints" such a powerful poem is the way Dickinson uses literary devices to convey her message. Let's take a closer look at some of these devices and how they contribute to the poem's overall effect.


One of the most striking features of the poem is the way in which Dickinson personifies Death. She describes it as a "kindly" visitor, someone who comes to take us away with a gentle touch. This personification serves to soften the harshness of death and make it seem more like a natural part of life.


Dickinson is also a master of imagery, and "The Longest Day That God Appoints" is full of striking images that help to convey the poem's meaning. For example, in the first stanza, she uses the image of a bountiful harvest to convey a sense of abundance and plenty. In the second stanza, she describes Death as a "driver" who takes us away, using imagery that is both vivid and powerful.


Finally, Dickinson uses metaphor to great effect in the poem. For example, in the second stanza, she compares death to a "tolling bell," suggesting that it is something that is both mournful and inevitable. This metaphor helps to underscore the seriousness of the subject matter and make it more emotionally resonant.


In the end, "The Longest Day That God Appoints" is a poem that speaks to the human experience in a profound and moving way. By exploring the themes of life and death through vivid imagery and powerful metaphor, Dickinson reminds us of our own mortality and our place in the natural world. And yet, even in the face of death, she finds comfort in the thought that everything is being done according to God's plan. This is a poem that is both deeply philosophical and deeply emotional, and it is a testament to Dickinson's mastery of the art of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Longest Day That God Appoints: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson, one of the most celebrated American poets of the 19th century, is known for her unique style of writing that often explores themes of death, nature, and spirituality. One of her most famous poems, "The Longest Day That God Appoints," is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece that delves into the concept of time and the fleeting nature of life. In this article, we will take a closer look at this classic poem and explore its meaning and significance.

The poem begins with the line, "The longest day that God appoints," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "appoints" suggests that the day in question is predetermined and has a specific purpose. The fact that it is the "longest" day also implies that it is a significant event, one that is worthy of attention and contemplation.

As the poem continues, Dickinson describes the day in vivid detail, painting a picture of a world that is alive and vibrant. She speaks of "the sun at his own blaze," "the birds in summer shawls," and "the orchard for a dome." These images evoke a sense of beauty and wonder, as if the world is bursting with life and energy. However, there is also a sense of transience and impermanence, as if this beauty is fleeting and will soon be gone.

The second stanza of the poem shifts the focus to the human experience of this day. Dickinson writes, "A solitude condenses / A silence amplifies." Here, she suggests that the beauty and wonder of the world around us can also be isolating and lonely. The silence that amplifies can be deafening, and the solitude that condenses can be suffocating. This is a reminder that even in the midst of beauty, there can be a sense of sadness and melancholy.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant. Dickinson writes, "Like other days / That break in smiles / The phraseless grandeur of the scene / If I interpret, not, / A parable." Here, she suggests that this day is like any other day, one that is filled with both joy and sorrow. However, she also acknowledges that there is something special about this day, something that is beyond words and cannot be fully understood. It is a "parable," a story that has a deeper meaning and significance.

The final stanza of the poem brings everything together. Dickinson writes, "The blue upon the hill / The blue upon the lake / The blue upon the mind / Is tarnished like the oar / Upon the tarnished boat / That bears the human soul." Here, she suggests that the beauty and wonder of the world around us can be tarnished by the impermanence of life. The blue of the hill, the lake, and the mind is no longer pure and vibrant, but instead is tarnished and faded. The oar upon the tarnished boat represents the human soul, which is also tarnished and worn by the passage of time.

Overall, "The Longest Day That God Appoints" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores the fleeting nature of life and the beauty and wonder of the world around us. Dickinson's use of vivid imagery and powerful language creates a sense of awe and wonder, while also reminding us of the transience and impermanence of life. It is a poem that encourages us to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, while also acknowledging the sadness and melancholy that can come with it.

In conclusion, "The Longest Day That God Appoints" is a classic poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of time, beauty, and impermanence are universal and timeless, and its message is one that is both poignant and uplifting. As we continue to navigate the complexities of life, this poem serves as a reminder to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, even as we acknowledge the fleeting nature of our existence.

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