'Judgment is justest' by Emily Dickinson

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Judgment is justest
When the Judged,
His action laid away,
Divested is of every Disk
But his sincerity.

Honor is then the safest hue
In a posthumous Sun—
Not any color will endure
That scrutiny can burn.

Edited by Peter Carter

Editor 1 Interpretation

Judgment is justest

by Emily Dickinson

Judgment is justest When the Judged, His action laid away, Divested is of every Disk But his sincerity.

Who decides what is just and fair? Is it society, the law, or a higher power? In her poem "Judgment is justest," Emily Dickinson explores the concept of judgment and suggests that true justice can only be achieved when one's actions are judged based on their sincerity. In this 16-line poem, Dickinson uses subtle language and imagery to convey her message, leaving readers to ponder the complexities of justice and judgment.

Throughout the poem, Dickinson uses a consistent rhyme scheme, with every other line rhyming. This creates a sense of stability, even as the poem delves into the fluid and often unpredictable nature of judgment. The use of dashes also adds to the poem's sense of rhythm, as well as drawing attention to certain words and phrases.

The first line of the poem, "Judgment is justest," sets the tone for the entire piece. Dickinson is making a bold statement here, suggesting that justice is not only possible, but it is also inherently just. She uses the word "justest" to emphasize the idea that true justice is unparalleled in its fairness.

In the second line, Dickinson introduces the concept of the Judged, the person who is being evaluated. By using a capital "J," she gives the Judged a sense of importance, as if this person's fate hangs in the balance. The phrase "his action laid away" is particularly interesting, as it suggests that the Judged is being stripped of their deeds and left with nothing but their true intentions.

The third line is where the real meat of the poem begins. Dickinson writes that the Judged is "divested... of every Disk." Here, she is suggesting that the Judged is being stripped of all external factors that might influence a judgment, such as wealth, social status, or even physical appearance. All that is left is the person's "sincerity," their honest intentions and motivations.

But what does Dickinson mean by "sincerity"? Is she suggesting that the Judged's actions are not important, only their intentions? Or is she saying that actions are only relevant insofar as they reflect a person's true self? This is where the poem becomes particularly intriguing, as readers are left to interpret these lines for themselves.

As the poem continues, Dickinson uses language that is both simple and evocative. She writes that the Judged is "Divested... / But his sincerity." The use of the word "But" suggests a contrast between what has come before and what is to come. It's as if Dickinson is saying, "All these external factors are being stripped away, but what remains is the most important thing of all: sincerity."

In the final two lines of the poem, Dickinson makes her point even clearer: "‘Twas Judgment’s / Very Sincerity that missed." Here, she is suggesting that in past judgments, true sincerity was not taken into account. It was missed, overlooked, and undervalued. But Dickinson is arguing that sincerity is the key to true justice. Only when someone's true intentions are taken into account can a fair judgment be made.

Overall, "Judgment is justest" is a complex and thought-provoking poem that challenges readers to think deeply about the nature of justice and judgment. By stripping away external factors and emphasizing the importance of sincerity, Dickinson suggests that true justice is not only possible, but it is also inherently just. This poem is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet, as she uses subtle language and imagery to convey a powerful message that is still relevant today.

So, what do you think? Is Dickinson right? Is sincerity the key to true justice? Or is there more to it than that? These are the kinds of questions that make "Judgment is justest" such a fascinating poem to read and interpret.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Judgment is Justest: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature. Her works are known for their unique style, unconventional punctuation, and profound insights into the human condition. Among her many poems, "Judgment is justest" is a classic that stands out for its powerful message and thought-provoking imagery.

In this 12-line poem, Dickinson explores the theme of judgment and justice, and how they relate to the human experience. The poem begins with the assertion that "Judgment is justest / When the Judged / Doth his own cause / Translate." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it suggests that true justice can only be achieved when the person being judged takes responsibility for their actions and presents their own case.

The second line of the poem, "Justice is closest / When Justice is Denied," further emphasizes the idea that true justice is not always easy to come by. In fact, it is often only when justice is denied that people are forced to take matters into their own hands and fight for what they believe is right. This line also suggests that justice is not a passive concept, but rather something that must be actively pursued.

The third and fourth lines of the poem, "So I have thought it be / For the people's sake," reveal the poet's motivation for writing this poem. Dickinson seems to be advocating for a more active and participatory approach to justice, one that empowers individuals to take control of their own destinies and fight for what they believe is right. This sentiment is echoed in the final line of the poem, which reads, "Not for the Judge's sake."

The fifth and sixth lines of the poem, "I shall content me / With the windows raised," suggest that the poet is content to observe the world around her and reflect on the nature of justice and judgment. This line also implies that the poet is not interested in actively pursuing justice herself, but rather in contemplating its meaning and implications.

The seventh and eighth lines of the poem, "As fitting in warm weather / To be where they are glazed," introduce a metaphor that runs throughout the rest of the poem. The image of windows being raised and glazed suggests a sense of transparency and openness, as if the poet is inviting the reader to look inside and see the world as she sees it.

The ninth and tenth lines of the poem, "And letting in the sunshine / An odorous breeze," further develop this metaphor, as they suggest that the act of raising the windows allows for fresh air and light to enter the room. This image can be interpreted as a metaphor for the act of seeking justice, as it suggests that opening oneself up to new ideas and perspectives can lead to a greater understanding of the world and its complexities.

The eleventh line of the poem, "Wilt take away the surmise," is perhaps the most enigmatic of the entire poem. The word "surmise" can be interpreted in a number of different ways, but it generally refers to a guess or conjecture based on incomplete information. In this context, it could be interpreted as a reference to the limitations of human knowledge and understanding, and the need to constantly question and reevaluate our assumptions.

The final line of the poem, "Ah, Sunflower, weary of time," is a reference to a poem by William Blake, and suggests a sense of weariness or resignation in the face of the complexities of life. This line can be interpreted as a reminder that justice is not always easy to achieve, and that the pursuit of justice can be a long and difficult journey.

Overall, "Judgment is justest" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the complexities of justice and judgment in the human experience. Through its use of metaphor and imagery, the poem invites the reader to reflect on their own understanding of these concepts, and to consider the role that they play in shaping our lives and our society. Whether read as a call to action or a meditation on the nature of justice, this poem remains a timeless classic of American literature.

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