'Sic transit gloria mundi' by Emily Dickinson

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"Sic transit gloria mundi,"
"How doth the busy bee,"
"Dum vivimus vivamus,"
I stay mine enemy!

Oh "veni, vidi, vici!"
Oh caput cap-a-pie!
And oh "memento mori"
When I am far from thee!

Hurrah for Peter Parley!
Hurrah for Daniel Boone!
Three cheers, sir, for the gentleman
Who first observed the moon!

Peter, put up the sunshine;
Patti, arrange the stars;
Tell Luna, tea is waiting,
And call your brother Mars!

Put down the apple, Adam,
And come away with me,
So shalt thou have a pippin
From off my father's tree!

I climb the "Hill of Science,"
I "view the landscape o'er;"
Such transcendental prospect,
I ne'er beheld before!

Unto the Legislature
My country bids me go;
I'll take my india rubbers,
In case the wind should blow!

During my education,
It was announced to me
That gravitation, stumbling,
Fell from an apple tree!

The earth upon an axis
Was once supposed to turn,
By way of a gymnastic
In honor of the sun!

It was the brave Columbus,
A sailing o'er the tide,
Who notified the nations
Of where I would reside!

Mortality is fatal—
Gentility is fine,
Rascality, heroic,
Insolvency, sublime!

Our Fathers being weary,
Laid down on Bunker Hill;
And tho' full many a morning,
Yet they are sleeping still,—

The trumpet, sir, shall wake them,
In dreams I see them rise,
Each with a solemn musket
A marching to the skies!

A coward will remain, Sir,
Until the fight is done;
But an immortal hero
Will take his hat, and run!

Good bye, Sir, I am going;
My country calleth me;
Allow me, Sir, at parting,
To wipe my weeping e'e.

In token of our friendship
Accept this "Bonnie Doon,"
And when the hand that plucked it
Hath passed beyond the moon,

The memory of my ashes
Will consolation be;
Then, farewell, Tuscarora,
And farewell, Sir, to thee!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Sic transit gloria mundi: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation


Emily Dickinson's "Sic transit gloria mundi" is a classic poem that captures the ephemeral nature of worldly fame and glory. The title is a Latin phrase that translates to "Thus passes the glory of the world," and it sets the tone for the poem's theme of transience and mortality. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze the poem's language, structure, and imagery to understand how Dickinson explores the fleeting nature of human achievement and the inevitability of death.

Language and Structure

The poem consists of seven stanzas, each with four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABCB, which creates a sense of symmetry and balance. The language is simple yet poetic, with concise phrases that convey a powerful message. Dickinson uses repetition and alliteration to create a musicality that adds to the poem's impact. For example, in the first stanza, she writes:

The World is not conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—

The repetition of "conclusion" and "beyond" emphasizes the contrast between the finite world and the infinite beyond. The alliteration of "Invisible" and "Music" creates a sense of mystery and wonder, while "positive" and "Sound" suggest a tangible, concrete reality.

The poem's structure reinforces its theme of impermanence. The short, four-line stanzas create a sense of brevity and urgency, as if Dickinson is trying to capture a fleeting moment before it passes. The repetition of the phrase "Sic transit gloria mundi" after every stanza serves as a reminder of the poem's overarching message: that all things must pass, no matter how glorious or significant they may seem.

Imagery and Symbolism

Dickinson uses vivid imagery and symbolism to illustrate the transience of human achievement. In the second stanza, she writes:

The Music
Whose tiny sounds
Surmount the globe—
And human sounds—

Here, music symbolizes something that is both powerful and ephemeral. The "tiny sounds" that "surmount the globe" suggest a kind of ethereal, otherworldly quality that transcends the physical realm. In contrast, "human sounds" suggest something more tangible and grounded in reality. This juxtaposition emphasizes the theme of transience and reinforces the idea that worldly achievements are fleeting.

The fourth stanza also uses symbolism to explore the theme of mortality:

The Grave my little cottage is,
Where 'Keeping house' for thee
I make my parlor orderly
And lay the marble tea—

Here, the grave is personified as a "little cottage" that serves as a home for the speaker after death. The act of "keeping house" suggests a domesticity that underscores the idea of the grave as a final resting place. The metaphor of "marble tea" suggests a kind of cold, lifeless ritual that contrasts with the warmth and vitality of life.


At its core, "Sic transit gloria mundi" is a meditation on the inevitability of death and the fleeting nature of worldly achievements. Dickinson suggests that no matter how great our accomplishments may seem, they are ultimately insignificant in the face of our own mortality. The repetition of the Latin phrase "Sic transit gloria mundi" serves as a kind of memento mori, reminding us that all things must pass and that our time on earth is limited.

The poem's use of symbolism and imagery suggests a kind of spiritual dimension to this message. The references to music and the invisible world beyond the physical realm suggest a belief in something greater than ourselves. Dickinson seems to be suggesting that although our time on earth is limited, there may be something transcendent beyond this life that can give it meaning and purpose.


"Sic transit gloria mundi" is a classic poem that explores the transience of human achievement and the inevitability of death. Through its language, structure, imagery, and symbolism, the poem conveys a powerful message about the ephemeral nature of worldly glory and the need to embrace the spiritual dimension of life. Emily Dickinson's poetic vision continues to resonate with readers today, reminding us of the fleeting nature of our time on earth and the need to find meaning and purpose in our lives.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Sic transit gloria mundi, a Latin phrase that translates to "Thus passes the glory of the world," is a classic poem written by Emily Dickinson. This poem is a reflection on the fleeting nature of human life and the transience of worldly achievements. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve deeper into the meaning of this poem and explore its significance in the context of Dickinson's life and work.

Emily Dickinson was a prolific poet who lived in the 19th century. She was known for her unconventional style of writing, which often featured short lines, unconventional punctuation, and a focus on themes of death, nature, and spirituality. Dickinson was a recluse who spent most of her life in her family home in Amherst, Massachusetts. She wrote over 1,800 poems, but only a handful were published during her lifetime.

Sic transit gloria mundi is one of Dickinson's most famous poems. It is a short, four-line poem that packs a powerful punch. The poem reads:

"The bustle in a house The morning after death Is solemnest of industries Enacted upon earth."

At first glance, this poem may seem simple and straightforward. However, upon closer examination, it reveals a deeper meaning and a profound message about the nature of life and death.

The poem begins with the image of a "bustle in a house." This line evokes a sense of activity and movement, suggesting that life is in full swing. However, the next line reveals that this activity is taking place "the morning after death." Suddenly, the tone shifts from one of liveliness to one of solemnity. The poem suggests that even in the midst of life, death is always lurking in the background, waiting to make its presence known.

The third line of the poem is perhaps the most significant. It describes the activity that takes place after death as the "solemnest of industries enacted upon earth." This line is significant because it suggests that death is not just an event that happens to individuals, but rather a universal experience that affects all of humanity. The word "industry" suggests that death is a process, something that requires effort and attention. The word "solemnest" suggests that death is a serious and weighty matter, something that demands respect and reverence.

The final line of the poem, "Sic transit gloria mundi," is a Latin phrase that translates to "Thus passes the glory of the world." This line is significant because it ties the poem together and provides a deeper meaning. The phrase "gloria mundi" refers to the worldly achievements and accomplishments that people strive for in life. This line suggests that no matter how great our achievements may be, they are ultimately fleeting and temporary. The use of Latin in this line also adds a sense of timelessness and universality to the poem.

One of the things that makes Sic transit gloria mundi such a powerful poem is its relevance to our lives today. In a world that is constantly changing and evolving, it is easy to become caught up in the pursuit of worldly success and material possessions. However, this poem reminds us that no matter how successful we may be, our time on this earth is limited. It encourages us to focus on the things that truly matter in life, such as our relationships with others and our spiritual well-being.

Another significant aspect of this poem is its connection to Dickinson's life and work. Dickinson was known for her preoccupation with death and her fascination with the afterlife. Many of her poems explore themes of mortality and the transience of life. Sic transit gloria mundi is a perfect example of this, as it reflects Dickinson's belief that death is an inevitable part of the human experience.

In conclusion, Sic transit gloria mundi is a powerful poem that explores the fleeting nature of human life and the transience of worldly achievements. Through its use of vivid imagery and profound language, it encourages us to reflect on the things that truly matter in life and to appreciate the time that we have on this earth. As one of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems, it is a testament to her unique style and her ability to capture the essence of the human experience in just a few short lines.

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