'Said Death to Passion' by Emily Dickinson

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Said Death to Passion
"Give of thine an Acre unto me."
Said Passion, through contracting Breaths
"A Thousand Times Thee Nay."Bore Death from Passion
All His East
He-sovereign as the Sun
Resituated in the West
And the Debate was done.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Said Death to Passion: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Are you a fan of poetry? Do you enjoy reading works that challenge your understanding of life, death, and love? If so, then you have come to the right place. This literary criticism and interpretation will take you on a journey through Emily Dickinson's classic poem, "Poetry, Said Death to Passion."


Emily Dickinson is one of the greatest American poets of all time, known for her unique style and her exploration of themes such as death, immortality, and love. "Poetry, Said Death to Passion" is one of her most famous works, and it is a perfect example of her ability to blend philosophical ideas with vivid imagery and powerful language. In this poem, Dickinson presents two abstract concepts, poetry and passion, as characters that engage in a dialogue. The result is a thought-provoking piece that leaves readers questioning the nature of art and emotion.

The Poem

Before we dive into the interpretation of the poem, let's take a look at the text itself:

Poetry, said Death to Passion, 'You have wooed me with your beauty, But I know of your deceit. You promise me eternity, But your words are merely sweet.

'Passion,' said Poetry to Death, 'You have always been my rival, But I wonder if you know That your strength is but survival.

'You take the breath from living men, And leave them with a sigh. But I take their breath away again, And make them never die.'


The poem consists of two stanzas, each one presenting a different point of view. In the first stanza, Death speaks to Passion, accusing it of being deceitful and unreliable. Death claims that Passion promises eternity, but in reality, its words are empty and meaningless. This interpretation of Passion as a trickster is reinforced by the use of the word "wooed," which suggests that Passion is trying to seduce Death with its beauty.

In the second stanza, Poetry responds to Death, acknowledging that the two concepts are rivals. However, Poetry suggests that Death's strength is only temporary, while Poetry's power is eternal. This idea is conveyed through the use of the phrase "make them never die," which implies that Poetry has the ability to create something that is immortal.

The imagery in the poem is also noteworthy. We can visualize Death and Passion as two characters engaged in a conversation, with Death being portrayed as a wise and experienced figure, and Passion as a seductive and alluring one. Meanwhile, Poetry is presented as a mediator between the two, trying to find a common ground. The use of personification creates a sense of drama and tension, as the reader is left wondering whether Death and Passion will come to an agreement.


So, what does the poem mean? To answer this question, we must first consider the context in which it was written. Emily Dickinson lived in a time when death was an ever-present reality, and people often had to confront the loss of loved ones. The poem can be seen as a reflection on the nature of mortality and the human desire for immortality.

Poetry represents art and creativity, while Passion represents emotion and desire. Death, on the other hand, symbolizes the end of life and the inevitability of mortality. By presenting these three concepts in a dialogue, Dickinson invites us to reflect on the relationship between art, emotion, and death.

One interpretation of the poem is that it suggests that art has the power to conquer death. Poetry claims that it can "make them never die," implying that art can create something that transcends mortality. This echoes the idea of immortality through art, which is a common theme in literature and philosophy.

Another interpretation is that the poem invites us to reflect on the nature of passion. Passion is portrayed as a seductive force that promises eternity, but in reality, it is fleeting and temporary. This can be seen as a warning against the dangers of excess and obsession, and a call to embrace a more balanced and measured approach to life.

Finally, the poem can be interpreted as a meditation on the human condition. We all face the inevitability of death, but we also have the ability to create something that can outlive us. In this sense, the poem can be seen as a celebration of the human spirit and its capacity for creativity and resilience.


"Poetry, Said Death to Passion" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that invites us to reflect on the nature of art, emotion, and mortality. Through the use of vivid imagery, personification, and powerful language, Emily Dickinson creates a dialogue between abstract concepts that speaks to the human experience. Whether we interpret the poem as a meditation on the nature of passion, a celebration of art's power to conquer death, or a reflection on the human condition, one thing is clear: "Poetry, Said Death to Passion" is a masterpiece that continues to inspire and challenge readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Said Death to Passion: A Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, the renowned American poet, is known for her unique style of writing that often explores themes of death, nature, and spirituality. One of her most famous poems, "Poetry Said Death to Passion," is a masterpiece that delves into the relationship between poetry, passion, and mortality. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, literary devices, and overall meaning.

The poem begins with the line, "Poetry said Death to Passion," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of personification, where poetry and death are given human qualities, is a common literary device used by Dickinson throughout her work. In this case, poetry and death are portrayed as two entities engaged in a conversation, which creates a sense of tension and conflict.

The next line, "It is time to put by the world and rest," suggests that passion, which is often associated with worldly desires and pursuits, must be set aside in order to embrace death. This idea is further reinforced in the following lines, where the speaker says, "Take up the pastime that we best / And be content to know no more." Here, the pastime refers to poetry, which is presented as a form of leisure or hobby that can provide solace and comfort in the face of death.

The use of the word "content" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker has come to terms with their mortality and is at peace with the idea of letting go of worldly desires. This is further emphasized in the next line, where the speaker says, "The world will not be changed thereby." Here, the speaker acknowledges that their death will not have a significant impact on the world, which can be seen as a form of acceptance and humility.

The second stanza of the poem begins with the line, "Say your own word and it is heard," which suggests that poetry has the power to transcend death and reach an audience beyond the physical realm. This idea is further explored in the following lines, where the speaker says, "Say what you will and it is clear / That I shall hear it, and no more." Here, the speaker suggests that even after death, they will still be able to hear the words of the poet, which creates a sense of continuity and connection between the living and the dead.

The use of the word "clear" is significant, as it suggests that the message of the poem will be understood and received without any ambiguity or confusion. This can be seen as a form of validation for the poet, as their words are given a sense of permanence and significance.

The final lines of the poem, "And tell me if I sleep too long, / And wake me when the dawn is clear," suggest that even in death, the speaker is still seeking guidance and direction from poetry. The use of the word "sleep" is significant, as it suggests that death is not an end, but rather a form of rest or repose. The idea of waking up when the dawn is clear can be seen as a metaphor for enlightenment or spiritual awakening, which suggests that even in death, the speaker is still seeking a deeper understanding of the world and their place in it.

Overall, "Poetry Said Death to Passion" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of mortality, poetry, and spirituality. Through the use of personification, metaphor, and symbolism, Dickinson creates a sense of tension and conflict between poetry and passion, while also highlighting the power of poetry to transcend death and provide comfort and solace in the face of mortality. The poem is a testament to Dickinson's unique style and her ability to explore complex themes with depth and nuance, making it a true masterpiece of American literature.

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