'A still—Volcano—Life' by Emily Dickinson

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A still—Volcano—Life—
That flickered in the night—
When it was dark enough to do
Without erasing sight—

A quiet—Earthquake Style—
Too subtle to suspect
By natures this side Naples—
The North cannot detect

The Solemn—Torrid—Symbol—
The lips that never lie—
Whose hissing Corals part—and shut—
And Cities—ooze away—

Editor 1 Interpretation

A still—Volcano—Life: A Masterpiece of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, a renowned poet of the 19th century, has left an indelible mark on the world of literature with her unique poetry style. One of her most celebrated works, "A still—Volcano—Life," is a masterpiece that exudes profound reflection and philosophical musings about the nature of existence.

At first glance, the title seems to be an oxymoron, "A still—Volcano—Life," a paradoxical juxtaposition of an active volcano and a quiet, dormant life. However, as one dives deeper into this poem, it becomes apparent that Dickinson has skillfully woven together different threads of thought to create a fascinating tapestry of life's intricacies.

The Poem's Structure and Theme

The poem consists of three stanzas with an ABCB rhyme scheme. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, describing life as a "still volcano," a seemingly dormant force that is capable of erupting at any moment. The second stanza delves deeper into the concept of life's duality, with Dickinson describing it as a "dual sphere" that encompasses both light and shadow. Finally, the third stanza reveals the poet's underlying message: that life is a mysterious, paradoxical force that defies explanation.

The theme of the poem revolves around the paradoxical nature of life. Dickinson highlights the contrast between life's stillness and its potential for explosive eruption, its darkness and its lightness, and its simplicity and complexity. Through this contrast, Dickinson questions the very nature of existence and the purpose of life.

The Poem's Imagery and Symbolism

Dickinson's poetry is replete with vivid imagery and symbolism, and "A still—Volcano—Life" is no exception. The poem is a remarkable blend of metaphors and similes that lend it a surreal, dreamlike quality.

The metaphor of a volcano is perhaps the most potent of all the images in the poem. Dickinson uses it to symbolize the potential for eruption that lies dormant within all of us. Life, like a volcano, can be calm and still on the surface, but beneath the surface, it is a seething mass of energy waiting to erupt.

The image of a "dual sphere" is another powerful symbol used by Dickinson. It represents the duality of life, its lightness and its darkness. Life is not a simple, one-dimensional existence, but rather a complex interplay of opposing forces.

The use of light and shadow imagery further emphasizes the duality of life. Dickinson speaks of "the light upon the hill" and the "shadow on the plain," highlighting the opposing forces that coexist within the same landscape.

The Poem's Philosophical Underpinnings

At its core, "A still—Volcano—Life" is a philosophical exploration of the nature of existence. Dickinson was a deeply introspective person, and her poetry often reflects her search for meaning in life.

The paradoxical nature of life is a central theme of the poem. Dickinson seems to suggest that life is both simple and complex, still and eruptive, and light and dark. She questions whether we can truly understand the nature of existence or whether it is a mystery that will forever elude us.

The poet also raises questions about the purpose of life. Is there a greater meaning to our existence, or are we simply here to experience the ebb and flow of life's contrasting forces? The poem does not offer any definitive answers, but rather leaves the reader with a sense of wonder and introspection.


"A still—Volcano—Life" is a remarkable work of poetry that showcases Emily Dickinson's mastery of language and imagery. Through her use of metaphors, symbolism, and vivid imagery, Dickinson creates a surreal, dreamlike landscape that invites the reader to contemplate the mysteries of existence.

The paradoxical nature of life is a central theme of the poem, and Dickinson skillfully weaves together different threads of thought to create a fascinating tapestry of life's intricacies. The poem challenges us to question our understanding of existence and to contemplate the purpose of life.

In conclusion, "A still—Volcano—Life" is a masterpiece of poetry that continues to inspire and challenge readers to this day. It is a testament to Emily Dickinson's genius and her enduring legacy in the world of literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

A Still-Volcano-Life: 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, "A Still-Volcano-Life," is a powerful and evocative piece that explores the complex nature of life and the human experience. In this article, we will take a closer look at this classic poem and analyze its meaning, themes, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the line "A still – Volcano – Life," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "still" suggests a sense of calm and tranquility, while "volcano" implies a great power and energy lying just beneath the surface. This contrast between stillness and volatility is a recurring theme throughout the poem and serves to highlight the complex and often contradictory nature of life.

The second line of the poem reads, "That flickered in the night," which further emphasizes the idea of hidden power and energy. The use of the word "flickered" suggests a sense of movement and activity, while "night" implies darkness and mystery. Together, these two lines create a sense of anticipation and tension, as if something powerful and unpredictable is about to happen.

The third line of the poem reads, "When it was dark enough to do," which suggests that the power and energy of life can only be fully realized in moments of darkness and uncertainty. This idea is further reinforced in the next line, which reads, "Without erasing a lessened none." Here, Dickinson is suggesting that even in moments of great power and energy, there is still a sense of balance and harmony that must be maintained.

The fifth line of the poem reads, "Eclipsed – one – Mind – from itself –," which suggests that the power and energy of life can sometimes be overwhelming and all-consuming. The use of the word "eclipsed" implies a sense of darkness and shadow, while "one Mind" suggests a sense of unity and interconnectedness. Together, these two ideas create a sense of both awe and fear, as if the power of life is both beautiful and terrifying.

The final line of the poem reads, "Divulged – Eternity's –," which suggests that the power and energy of life is ultimately connected to something greater and more eternal. The use of the word "divulged" implies a sense of revelation and discovery, while "Eternity's" suggests a sense of timelessness and infinity. Together, these two ideas create a sense of wonder and awe, as if the power and energy of life is connected to something beyond our understanding.

Overall, "A Still-Volcano-Life" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the complex and often contradictory nature of life. Through its use of imagery, symbolism, and language, Dickinson creates a sense of tension and anticipation that builds throughout the poem, culminating in a sense of wonder and awe at the power and energy of life. Whether read as a meditation on the human experience or as a celebration of the natural world, this classic poem continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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