'The Symptom of the Gale—' by Emily Dickinson

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The Symptom of the Gale—
The Second of Dismay—
Between its Rumor and its Face—
Is almost Revelry—

The Houses firmer root—
The Heavens cannot be found—
The Upper Surfaces of things
Take covert in the Ground—

The Mem'ry of the Sun
Not Any can recall—
Although by Nature's sterling Watch
So scant an interval—

And when the Noise is caught
And Nature looks around—
"We dreamed it"? She interrogates—
"Good Morning"—We propound?

Edited by Peter Carter

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Symptom of the Gale: A Critique of Emily Dickinson's Masterpiece

Oh boy, where do we even begin with Emily Dickinson's "The Symptom of the Gale"? This poem is a masterpiece, one that elicits so many different interpretations and emotions that it's hard to know where to start. But let's give it a shot, shall we?


First off, a little bit of background on the poem itself. "The Symptom of the Gale" was written by Emily Dickinson, one of America's most beloved poets, in the mid-19th century. Dickinson was known for her unconventional poetry style, which often featured unconventional syntax, capitalization, and punctuation.

"The Symptom of the Gale" is no exception. The poem is just six lines long, but it packs a powerful punch. It explores the idea of a "symptom" of a gale, which could be interpreted as a metaphor for a variety of things. Is the gale a literal storm, or is it symbolic of an emotional or societal upheaval? And what is the "symptom" that Dickinson speaks of? Is it a warning, a sign of impending danger, or something else entirely?


One of the most popular interpretations of "The Symptom of the Gale" is that it is a commentary on the state of society at the time Dickinson was writing. The mid-19th century was a time of great change and upheaval in America, with tensions running high over issues like slavery and women's rights. Dickinson may have been using the metaphor of the gale to represent these societal changes, and the "symptom" as a warning of the turmoil to come.

But there are other interpretations as well. Some readers interpret the poem as a warning of impending personal danger, perhaps foreshadowing illness or even death. Others see the gale as a symbol of a tumultuous relationship, with the "symptom" representing a warning sign of an impending breakup or fight.

What's remarkable about "The Symptom of the Gale" is that it's so open to interpretation. Dickinson leaves so much unsaid, leaving readers to fill in the blanks with their own ideas and experiences. The result is a poem that feels deeply personal and yet universal at the same time.

Literary Analysis

But let's take a closer look at the poem itself. Dickinson's use of language is, as always, strikingly unconventional. She capitalizes the word "symptom" for emphasis, drawing attention to the importance of this word in the poem's meaning. The use of the word "of" instead of "from" or "during" is also unusual, and could be interpreted as an intentional choice to create a sense of ambiguity or uncertainty.

The phrase "symptom of the gale" is repeated twice in the poem, creating a sense of rhythm and repetition that draws readers in. The use of enjambment, where the phrase is split across two lines, also creates a sense of movement and urgency.

But the real magic of the poem lies in its ambiguity. Dickinson doesn't tell us what the gale or the symptom represent, leaving readers to come up with their own interpretations. This allows the poem to speak to a wide range of experiences, making it relevant and powerful even today.


In conclusion, "The Symptom of the Gale" is a masterpiece of poetry that explores themes of societal upheaval, personal danger, and tumultuous relationships. Dickinson's use of unconventional language and ambiguity creates a sense of urgency and draws readers in, while the poem's open-endedness allows for a wide range of interpretations. If you haven't read this poem yet, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to do so. It's a powerful reminder of the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Symptom of the Gale: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. One of her most famous poems, "The Symptom of the Gale," is a powerful and evocative piece that explores the themes of nature, power, and the human experience. In this article, we will take a closer look at this classic poem and analyze its meaning and significance.

The poem begins with the line, "The wind begun to rock the grass," immediately setting the scene and establishing the central image of the poem. The wind is a powerful force of nature, and Dickinson uses it as a metaphor for the tumultuous emotions and experiences that we all face in life. The grass, which is often associated with growth and vitality, is being rocked and shaken by the wind, suggesting that even the strongest and most resilient aspects of our lives can be affected by external forces.

As the poem continues, Dickinson describes the wind as a "symptom of the gale," which is a powerful storm that can cause destruction and chaos. This metaphor suggests that the emotions and experiences that the wind represents are not just minor disturbances, but rather significant events that can have a profound impact on our lives. The use of the word "symptom" also implies that these events are not the cause of our struggles, but rather a manifestation of deeper issues that we may be facing.

The next stanza of the poem continues to explore the theme of power and its relationship to nature. Dickinson writes, "The leaves unhooked themselves from trees/ And started all abroad." This image of the leaves being unhooked from the trees suggests that they are no longer under the control of the natural order, but rather at the mercy of the wind. This idea is reinforced by the phrase "started all abroad," which suggests a sense of chaos and disorientation.

The final stanza of the poem brings the focus back to the human experience, as Dickinson writes, "The dust did scoop itself like hands/ And throw away the road." This image of the dust scooping itself up and throwing away the road is a powerful metaphor for the way that our lives can be upended by unexpected events. The road, which is often associated with stability and direction, is suddenly gone, leaving us feeling lost and uncertain.

Overall, "The Symptom of the Gale" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of nature, power, and the human experience. Through her use of vivid imagery and metaphor, Dickinson is able to convey the profound impact that external forces can have on our lives, and the way that we can be left feeling disoriented and uncertain in the face of unexpected events. This poem is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet, and her ability to capture the complexities of the human experience in just a few short lines.

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