'I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs' by Emily Dickinson

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I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs—
The name They dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools,
I've finished threading—too—

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, of Grace—
Unto supremest name—
Called to my Full—The Crescent dropped—
Existence's whole Arc, filled up,
With one small Diadem.

My second Rank—too small the first—
Crowned—Crowing—on my Father's breast—
A half unconscious Queen—
But this time—Adequate—Erect,
With Will to choose, or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown—

Editor 1 Interpretation

I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs by Emily Dickinson: A Masterpiece of the Poetic Art

When we delve into the world of poetry, we embark on a journey that can take us to the most unimaginable places, emotions, and thoughts. Poems are the vessels of the human soul, and they have the power to move us, lift us up, or break us down. Some poets have achieved the status of masters, and their works have become part of the cultural heritage of humanity. One of these poets is Emily Dickinson, whose poem "I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is a masterpiece of the poetic art.

The Poem and its Context

Before we dive into the interpretation and analysis of the poem, let's take a moment to understand its context. Emily Dickinson was an American poet who lived in the 19th century and wrote over 1,800 poems, most of which were published posthumously. She was known for her unconventional use of language, punctuation, and syntax, as well as her exploration of themes such as death, love, nature, and spirituality.

"I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is one of Dickinson's later poems, written around 1863. It is a short, powerful piece that conveys a sense of liberation and independence. The poem is structured as one stanza of four lines, with an irregular rhyme scheme (ABCB). Here is the text in full:

I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs— The name They dropped upon my face With water, in the country church Is finished using, now,

The first line establishes the theme of the poem: the speaker has stopped being "Theirs," meaning she has broken away from some force or authority that held power over her. The second line refers to a baptismal ritual, where the speaker was given a name or identity by "Them." The third line adds a setting to the scene, a country church where the speaker was baptized. Finally, the fourth line declares that the speaker is done with this identity, this name, this power over her.

Interpretation and Analysis

Let's take a closer look at the poem and explore its possible meanings and implications. As with any work of art, the interpretation of "I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is subjective and open to different readings. However, we can identify some key elements that shed light on the poem's themes and motifs.

The Theme of Identity

One of the most obvious themes of the poem is identity. The speaker declares that she has stopped being "Theirs," which implies that she was someone else's property or possession. This could refer to a variety of situations, such as a patriarchal society that oppressed women, a religious institution that demanded conformity, or a family that controlled the speaker's life choices.

By breaking away from this identity, the speaker asserts her autonomy and agency. The fact that she refers to a baptismal ritual suggests that the identity given to her was not of her own choosing, but rather imposed on her by an external force. The use of the past tense ("The name They dropped upon my face") emphasizes the speaker's distance from this identity, as if it were a distant memory or a discarded garment.

The poem thus becomes a celebration of selfhood and individuality, a rejection of the notion that one's identity is predetermined or fixed. The speaker claims her right to define herself on her own terms, to be "finished using" the name and identity that were not hers to begin with.

The Theme of Power

Another important theme of the poem is power. The speaker asserts her agency by declaring that she has "ceded" herself, which implies a voluntary surrender of power. However, the fact that she had to cede herself in the first place suggests that someone or something had power over her before.

The use of the word "Theirs" is ambiguous, but it could refer to any kind of authority figure or institution that exerted power over the speaker. The fact that the speaker refers to a baptismal ritual suggests that religion or spirituality may be involved, but this is not necessarily the only interpretation.

The poem can thus be read as a critique of power structures that limit individual freedom and autonomy. The speaker's decision to break away from these structures is a bold statement of resistance and defiance, a refusal to be controlled or subjugated.

The Theme of Language and Communication

A third theme that emerges from the poem is language and communication. The fact that the speaker's identity was "dropped upon [her] face / With water" suggests that language and naming play a crucial role in the formation of identity. The name given to the speaker at baptism is a form of language that communicates a particular identity and role.

However, the speaker rejects this language and the power it represents. She declares that the name is "finished using," implying that language is not a fixed or permanent entity, but rather a tool that can be discarded or repurposed.

The poem can thus be read as a meditation on the power of language and its ability to shape our perception of ourselves and the world around us. The speaker's rejection of the name given to her is a rejection of the language that seeks to define her, and a celebration of the multiplicity of identities that language cannot fully capture.

The Poetic Form and Style

Apart from its themes and motifs, "I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is a masterful example of Emily Dickinson's poetic form and style. The irregular rhyme scheme (ABCB) adds a sense of unpredictability and spontaneity to the poem, as if the words are following their own internal logic rather than a pre-established pattern.

The use of enjambment, or the continuation of a sentence or phrase across multiple lines, creates a sense of movement and fluidity, as if the poem is constantly shifting and evolving. The punctuation is also unconventional, with dashes and ellipses interrupting and fragmenting the syntax, creating a sense of pause and hesitation.

Overall, the poem's form and style reflect its themes and motifs, conveying a sense of liberation and defiance that is both inspiring and unsettling.


"I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is a powerful poem that encapsulates some of Emily Dickinson's most important themes and motifs. It celebrates the autonomy and agency of the individual, critiques power structures that limit freedom, and meditates on the power of language and communication.

The poem's form and style are also masterful, conveying a sense of spontaneity and fluidity that mirrors the speaker's declaration of independence.

Overall, "I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is a testament to the power of poetry to express the deepest emotions and thoughts of the human soul, and to inspire us to break free from the chains that bind us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Emily Dickinson's poem "I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is a powerful and thought-provoking piece that explores themes of independence, self-discovery, and the struggle for personal identity. With its concise yet evocative language and its use of metaphor and imagery, this poem is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet and her ability to capture complex emotions and ideas in just a few lines.

The poem begins with the speaker declaring that she has "ceded" herself, meaning that she has given up her former identity and become something new. She has "stopped being Theirs," which suggests that she has broken free from the expectations and constraints of others and is now living on her own terms. This idea of self-discovery and independence is a common theme in Dickinson's work, and it is one that resonates with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

The second stanza of the poem is particularly powerful, as it uses metaphor to convey the speaker's sense of liberation and newfound freedom. She compares herself to a bird that has broken free from its cage and is now soaring through the sky. This image is both beautiful and poignant, as it suggests that the speaker has finally found the courage to spread her wings and explore the world around her.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most enigmatic, as it introduces the idea of a "Queen" who has "ceased to rule." It is unclear who this Queen is meant to represent, but it is possible that she is a symbol of the speaker's former self, or of the societal expectations that once held her back. By declaring that the Queen has "ceased to rule," the speaker is suggesting that she has taken control of her own life and is no longer bound by the constraints of others.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as it brings together all of the themes and ideas that have been explored throughout the poem. The speaker declares that she is now "free," and that she has found a new sense of purpose and meaning in her life. She is no longer bound by the expectations of others, and she is now able to explore the world around her with a sense of wonder and excitement.

Overall, "I'm ceded—I've stopped being Theirs" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores themes of independence, self-discovery, and the struggle for personal identity. With its use of metaphor and imagery, it captures the complex emotions and ideas that are often associated with these themes, and it speaks to readers of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply someone who is interested in exploring the human experience, this poem is sure to resonate with you on a deep and meaningful level.

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