'Papa above!' by Emily Dickinson

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Papa above!
Regard a Mouse
O'erpowered by the Cat!
Reserve within thy kingdom
A "Mansion" for the Rat!

Snug in seraphic Cupboards
To nibble all the day
While unsuspecting Cycles
Wheel solemnly away!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Excitement and Depth in "Papa above!" by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is known for her unique poetic style that combines deep emotions, vivid imagery, and unconventional syntax. "Papa above!" is a perfect example of her distinctive voice that captures both the excitement and depth of human experience. In this 16-line poem, Dickinson explores the themes of death, faith, and love in a way that challenges the reader's assumptions and touches their hearts.

A Poem of Grief and Hope

"Papa above!" starts with a bold and unexpected assertion: "Papa above! / Regard a Mouse / O'erpowered by the Cat!" The poem's speaker, who we can assume is Dickinson herself, is addressing her father who has passed away and is now in heaven. The mouse represents the fragility and vulnerability of human life, while the cat symbolizes death or the forces of nature that can overpower us. The first two lines create a sense of tension and anticipation, as we wonder what will happen to the mouse and how the father will respond to its plight.

The next few lines reveal the speaker's struggle with grief and despair: "Reserve within thy kingdom / A 'Mansion' for the Rat!" Here, the speaker is asking her father to provide a safe haven for the mouse, who is now compared to a rat. The use of the word "reserve" suggests that the speaker is not sure if her father has the power or the willingness to grant her request. The word "kingdom" also implies that the father is in a position of authority and control, but it is not clear if he can or will intervene in the affairs of mortals.

The third stanza takes a surprising turn as the speaker expresses her faith and hope in a higher power: "Make our 'House' thy 'Swelling,'" she writes, "And thy 'Path,' the Milliardaire -- / Shut the Door unto thyself / Not the smallest Heart beside!" Here, the speaker is asking her father to make their earthly house a part of his heavenly one, and to make his path or journey through the afterlife a million times richer than any earthly wealth. The use of the word "milliardaire" suggests that the speaker is thinking beyond the limitations of human language and concepts, and is trying to convey the vastness and infinitude of her father's new domain.

The final stanza brings the poem to a close with a powerful image: "Teach me -- Bear me -- / Illumine me --" the speaker pleads, "Papa, Sir, to Heaven!" Here, the speaker is asking her father to guide her, carry her, and enlighten her on her own journey to heaven. The use of the word "Sir" adds a touch of formality and reverence to the address, while the exclamation mark conveys the urgency and intensity of the speaker's desire. The poem ends with the word "Heaven!" as if to emphasize the ultimate goal and destination of all human beings.

A Poem of Paradoxes

"Papa above!" is a poem that is full of paradoxes and contrasts. On the one hand, it expresses the speaker's grief and sense of loss, as she mourns the passing of her father and seeks his help and protection. On the other hand, it also expresses her faith and hope in a higher power, as she imagines her father as a benevolent and powerful figure in heaven. The poem also contrasts the small and helpless mouse with the mighty and predatory cat, suggesting the fragility and precariousness of human life. At the same time, it also contrasts the earthly house with the heavenly mansion, implying the transience and insignificance of material possessions.

The poem's language is also full of paradoxes and unusual phrasings. The use of capitalization for certain words, such as "Mouse," "Cat," "Mansion," and "Swelling," gives them a special emphasis and suggests their symbolic power. The use of the word "milliardaire" is also a striking example of Dickinson's use of non-standard English words to convey her ideas and feelings. The poem's syntax is also unconventional, with its long and winding sentences that create a sense of breathlessness and urgency.

A Poem of Interpretation

"Papa above!" is a poem that invites multiple interpretations and readings. At its core, it is a poem about the human experience of death and the search for meaning and hope in the face of mortality. The speaker's address to her father can be seen as an expression of her desire for connection and continuity with him, even as he has passed away. The request for a "mansion" and a "swelling" can be seen as an expression of the speaker's hope for a better afterlife and a belief in the power of the father to provide it.

At the same time, the poem can also be read as a commentary on the limits of human language and the power of metaphor and symbolism. Dickinson's use of animal imagery and capitalization suggests that the poem's meanings go beyond the literal and the ordinary. The use of the word "milliardaire" can be seen as an attempt to express the inexpressible, the vastness and richness of the father's new realm.

Ultimately, "Papa above!" is a poem that challenges the reader's assumptions and expectations. It asks us to consider the paradoxes and uncertainties of human existence, while also offering a glimpse of hope and transcendence. It is a poem that rewards careful and repeated readings, as its meanings and nuances become more apparent with each encounter. It is a poem that reminds us of the power of poetry to capture the mystery and beauty of life, and to express the inexpressible.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Papa above! is a classic poem written by Emily Dickinson, one of the most renowned poets of the 19th century. This poem is a beautiful tribute to her father, Edward Dickinson, who was a prominent lawyer and politician in Amherst, Massachusetts. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and historical context of this poem.

The poem begins with the line "Papa above!" which immediately establishes the tone of reverence and admiration that Dickinson has for her father. The use of the word "above" suggests that her father has passed away and is now in heaven. This is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry, as she often wrote about death and the afterlife.

The next line, "Regard a Mouse," is a surprising shift in subject matter. Dickinson is asking her father to pay attention to a small, insignificant creature. This line is a metaphor for the way her father treated her when she was a child. She was often overlooked and ignored, much like a mouse in a room full of people. However, despite this neglect, she still holds her father in high regard.

The third line, "O'erpowered by the Cat!" is a continuation of the mouse metaphor. The cat represents the challenges and obstacles that Dickinson faced in her life. Despite being overpowered by these challenges, she still looks up to her father for guidance and support.

The fourth line, "Reserve within thyself," is a call to her father to be reserved and stoic in the face of adversity. This is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry, as she often wrote about the importance of self-control and restraint.

The fifth line, "The Majesty of Silence," is a beautiful phrase that captures the essence of Dickinson's writing style. She often used silence as a literary device to convey meaning and emotion. In this case, the silence represents the strength and power of her father's character.

The sixth line, "The Sphinx of the Door," is a reference to the Sphinx in Greek mythology. The Sphinx was a creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. It was known for its riddles and puzzles, which it would pose to travelers. In this context, the Sphinx represents the mysteries and secrets that her father kept hidden from her.

The seventh line, "Not of Bronze," is a reference to the statue of the Sphinx in Egypt, which is made of bronze. Dickinson is saying that her father's character is not like a statue, but rather a living, breathing human being with flaws and imperfections.

The eighth line, "Nor of Iron," is a continuation of the previous line. Dickinson is saying that her father's character is not rigid and inflexible like iron, but rather adaptable and open to change.

The ninth line, "But of Oak," is a beautiful metaphor for the strength and resilience of her father's character. Oak trees are known for their durability and longevity, and Dickinson is saying that her father's character is just as strong and enduring.

The final line, "And evermore thou grew'st thyself with thyself," is a reflection on the growth and development of her father's character over time. Dickinson is saying that her father was always striving to improve himself and become a better person.

In terms of literary devices, Dickinson uses metaphor, allusion, and imagery to convey her message. The mouse and cat metaphor is a powerful way to illustrate the challenges that Dickinson faced in her life. The reference to the Sphinx adds a layer of complexity and mystery to the poem. The use of oak as a metaphor for her father's character is a beautiful and poignant image.

In terms of historical context, it is important to note that Dickinson lived in a time when women were not encouraged to pursue careers in the arts or sciences. Her father, however, was a strong supporter of her writing and encouraged her to pursue her passion. This poem can be seen as a tribute to his support and encouragement.

In conclusion, Papa above! is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of Emily Dickinson's writing style. Through the use of metaphor, allusion, and imagery, she pays tribute to her father and his strength of character. This poem is a testament to the enduring bond between a father and daughter, and the power of love and support in the face of adversity.

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