'I never told the buried gold' by Emily Dickinson

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I never told the buried gold
Upon the hill—that lies—
I saw the sun—his plunder done
Crouch low to guard his prize.

He stood as near
As stood you here—
A pace had been between—
Did but a snake bisect the brake
My life had forfeit been.

That was a wondrous booty—
I hope 'twas honest gained.
Those were the fairest ingots
That ever kissed the spade!

Whether to keep the secret—
Whether to reveal—
Whether as I ponder
Kidd will sudden sail—

Could a shrewd advise me
We might e'en divide—
Should a shrewd betray me—
Atropos decide!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"I Never Told the Buried Gold" - A Literary Criticism

Oh boy, where do I even begin? Emily Dickinson, the queen of 19th century poetry, has gifted us with yet another masterpiece - "I Never Told the Buried Gold". This short but powerful poem is a testament to Dickinson's unparalleled ability to convey complex emotions and ideas through simple and concise language. In this literary criticism, we will dive deep into the themes, structure, and literary devices used in this poem to uncover its hidden meanings and interpretations.


At its core, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is a poem about secrets and their consequences. The speaker of the poem tells us that they have a secret, one that is so valuable they compare it to a "buried gold". However, they also reveal that they have never shared this secret with anyone, not even their closest friends or family. The reason for this secrecy is not explicitly stated, but it is clear that the speaker considers it to be both a source of pride and shame.

One possible interpretation of this theme is that the secret represents a part of the speaker's identity that they are afraid to reveal to others. This could be something as simple as a personal hobby or interest, or something more complex like a hidden desire or sexual orientation. By keeping this secret buried, the speaker is able to retain a sense of control and power over their own identity, but at the same time, they are also isolating themselves from others and potentially damaging their relationships.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is that of regret and missed opportunities. The speaker tells us that they "never told the buried gold" and that it is now too late to do so. This suggests that there were moments in the past where the speaker could have shared their secret, but they chose not to. This could be due to fear, shame, or a desire to maintain control over their identity. Whatever the reason, the speaker now realizes that they have missed out on the opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level and to potentially receive acceptance and support.


Despite its brevity, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is a masterclass in poetic structure. The poem consists of two quatrains, each with a rhyme scheme of ABAB. The use of consistent rhyme and meter gives the poem a musical quality that is both pleasing to the ear and reinforces the poem's themes of secrecy and control.

Furthermore, Dickinson's use of capitalization and punctuation is also notable. The phrase "Buried Gold" is capitalized, giving it a sense of importance and significance. Similarly, the use of dashes throughout the poem creates a sense of interruption or hesitation, as if the speaker is struggling to reveal their secret. These subtle but effective choices by Dickinson help to enhance the overall impact of the poem.

Literary Devices

As with many of Dickinson's poems, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is rich with literary devices that contribute to its poetic power. One of the most prominent devices used in the poem is metaphor. The "buried gold" serves as a metaphor for the speaker's secret, representing something that is valuable, coveted, and hidden from view. This metaphor is reinforced throughout the poem, with the speaker describing how they "dug" and "found" the secret, and how it is now "buried" and untouchable.

Another literary device used in the poem is repetition. The phrase "I never told" is repeated twice in the poem, emphasizing the speaker's reluctance to reveal their secret. This repetition creates a sense of tension and unease, as if the speaker is struggling with their own inner turmoil.

Finally, Dickinson's use of imagery is also noteworthy. The image of buried treasure is a powerful one, evoking feelings of excitement, adventure, and mystery. However, the speaker's description of the treasure as "cold" and "heavy" also suggests a sense of burden or weight. This juxtaposition of positive and negative imagery creates a sense of ambiguity and complexity that is characteristic of Dickinson's style.


So, what does all of this mean? Well, the beauty of Dickinson's poetry is that it can be interpreted in a variety of ways, depending on the reader's own experiences and perspectives. However, one possible interpretation of "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is that it is a commentary on the dangers of secrecy and the importance of authenticity.

The speaker's reluctance to reveal their secret suggests a fear of rejection or judgement from others. However, by keeping this secret buried, the speaker is also denying themselves the opportunity to form true connections with others and to be fully seen and understood. In this sense, the poem can be seen as a warning against the dangers of hiding one's true self from the world.

Furthermore, the speaker's regret over not revealing their secret suggests that they have come to recognize the value of authenticity and openness. By keeping their secret buried, the speaker has missed out on opportunities for growth, acceptance, and connection. This realization serves as a reminder that it is never too late to be true to oneself and to seek out genuine connections with others.


In conclusion, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is a powerful and poignant poem that speaks to the complexities of human identity and the consequences of secrecy. Through its use of metaphor, repetition, and imagery, the poem conveys a sense of tension and unease that is characteristic of Dickinson's style. Ultimately, the poem serves as a reminder of the importance of authenticity and openness, and the dangers of denying oneself the opportunity to be fully seen and understood by others.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

I Never Told the Buried Gold: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. One of her most famous poems, "I Never Told the Buried Gold," is a haunting and enigmatic piece that has puzzled scholars and readers alike for decades. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem, exploring its themes, symbolism, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the speaker declaring that they "never told the buried gold," a statement that immediately raises questions about what this gold might represent. Is it a literal treasure that the speaker has kept secret, or is it a metaphor for something else entirely? As we read on, it becomes clear that the gold is a symbol for the speaker's deepest desires and dreams, the things that they have kept hidden and buried within themselves.

The second stanza of the poem introduces the idea of a "secret vein," a hidden source of wealth that the speaker has discovered within themselves. This vein is described as "richer than a mine," suggesting that the speaker's innermost desires are more valuable than any material wealth. However, the speaker also acknowledges that this vein is "harder to divine," implying that it is not easy to access or understand their own desires.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most enigmatic, as the speaker describes a "strange mine" that they have discovered within themselves. This mine is "dark and deep," and the speaker admits that they have "never fathomed" its depths. This suggests that the speaker's innermost desires are complex and mysterious, and that they have not yet fully explored or understood them.

The fourth stanza of the poem introduces the idea of a "thief" who has come to steal the speaker's buried gold. This thief is described as "sly" and "bold," suggesting that they are cunning and determined. However, the speaker also acknowledges that they have "never seen" this thief, implying that it may be a metaphorical figure rather than a literal one.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most poignant, as the speaker declares that they are "poorer for the act." This suggests that the thief has succeeded in stealing the speaker's buried gold, and that the speaker has lost something valuable as a result. However, the speaker also acknowledges that they are "richer for the pain," implying that the experience of loss has taught them something important about themselves and their desires.

So what does all of this mean? At its core, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is a poem about the struggle to understand and express our deepest desires. The buried gold represents the things that we keep hidden within ourselves, whether out of fear, shame, or uncertainty. The secret vein and strange mine represent the complexity and mystery of our innermost desires, and the thief represents the forces that seek to steal them away from us.

Ultimately, the poem suggests that the act of exploring and expressing our deepest desires is both painful and rewarding. We may lose something valuable in the process, but we also gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. By confronting the thief and reclaiming our buried gold, we can become richer in ways that go far beyond material wealth.

In terms of literary devices, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is a masterclass in Dickinson's signature style. The poem is full of rich imagery and metaphor, from the buried gold to the secret vein to the strange mine. The use of repetition, particularly in the phrase "I never told," creates a sense of urgency and intensity that draws the reader in. The poem's structure, with its short stanzas and simple rhyme scheme, adds to its haunting and enigmatic quality.

In conclusion, "I Never Told the Buried Gold" is a classic poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of self-discovery, desire, and loss are universal, and its use of metaphor and imagery is both powerful and evocative. Whether you are a longtime fan of Emily Dickinson or a newcomer to her work, this poem is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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