'Pain-expands the Time' by Emily Dickinson

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Pain-expands the Time-
Ages coil within
The minute Circumference
Of a single Brain-Pain contracts-the Time-
Occupied with Shot
Gamuts of Eternities
Are as they were not-

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Pain-expands the Time by Emily Dickinson: A Critical Analysis

Are you familiar with the poetry of Emily Dickinson? If not, let me introduce you to one of her most famous poems - Poetry, Pain-expands the Time. This poem is a perfect example of Dickinson's unique style and is a testament to her ability to convey complex emotions through simple yet powerful language.

The Poem

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

Poetry, pain-expands the Time—
When it, like Frost, opposes
- Emily Dickinson

At first glance, this poem may seem simple and straightforward, but as with most of Dickinson's work, there is much more going on beneath the surface.


Let's start with the title - Poetry, Pain-expands the Time. The title itself is a paradoxical statement. Pain is typically associated with negative emotions and a desire to escape or forget, while poetry is often seen as a way to capture beauty and joy. However, in this poem, Dickinson suggests that poetry and pain are intertwined, and that pain has the power to expand time.

The first line of the poem - "Poetry, pain-expands the Time" - sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "expands" suggests that time is elastic, and that pain has the power to stretch it out. This is an interesting idea, as time is often seen as a fixed and immutable concept.

The second line - "When it, like Frost, opposes" - is a bit more enigmatic. Frost is often associated with coldness and death, and so it seems that Dickinson is suggesting that pain is something that opposes life and vitality. However, the use of the word "opposes" is interesting, as it suggests that pain is not necessarily a negative force, but rather something that is in opposition to something else.

The final line of the poem - "Oblivion" - is perhaps the most intriguing. Oblivion is typically associated with forgetfulness and the loss of memory. However, in this context, it seems that Dickinson is suggesting that pain is a way to combat oblivion. By experiencing pain, we are able to hold onto our memories and experiences more tightly.


So, what are the themes that emerge from this poem? There are several that we can identify:

The Relationship Between Pain and Poetry

One of the most obvious themes of the poem is the relationship between pain and poetry. Dickinson suggests that pain is an essential component of poetry, and that it has the power to expand time. This idea is intriguing, as it suggests that poetry is not just an art form, but rather something that is deeply intertwined with our emotional experiences.

The Elasticity of Time

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the idea that time is not fixed and immutable, but rather something that can be stretched and expanded. Pain is the force that has the power to do this, according to Dickinson.

The Importance of Memory

Finally, the poem suggests that memory is essential to our existence. By experiencing pain, we are able to hold onto our memories more tightly and combat oblivion.


In conclusion, Poetry, Pain-expands the Time is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the relationship between pain, poetry, and time. Through simple yet powerful language, Dickinson is able to convey complex emotions and ideas, and leave us with much to ponder. Whether you are a fan of poetry or not, this poem is sure to leave an impression on you. So, what are you waiting for? Go and read it for yourself!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Pain-Expands the Time: 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 is "Poetry Pain-Expands the Time," a powerful and thought-provoking piece that explores the relationship between pain, time, and creativity. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem, examining its themes, imagery, and language to gain a deeper understanding of Dickinson's unique perspective on the creative process.

The poem begins with a simple statement: "Pain-expands the Time." At first glance, this may seem like a straightforward observation, but as we delve deeper into the poem, we realize that Dickinson is making a much more profound statement about the nature of creativity. She suggests that pain is not just a physical sensation but also a mental and emotional state that can have a transformative effect on our perception of time. When we are in pain, time seems to slow down, and every moment feels more intense and significant. This heightened awareness of time can be both a blessing and a curse for creative individuals, as it allows them to delve deeper into their work but also exposes them to the full force of their emotions.

The second line of the poem, "Aches contract - and Wrinkles, widen - / Time --" introduces the idea that pain can have both a contracting and expanding effect on time. On the one hand, pain can make time feel compressed and constricted, as if every moment is a struggle to endure. On the other hand, pain can also open up new dimensions of time, revealing hidden depths and complexities that were previously invisible. The image of wrinkles widening suggests that pain can reveal the hidden lines and creases of our lives, exposing the scars and wounds that we carry with us.

The third and fourth lines of the poem, "Begging that I -- for Comfort -- / Pray --" introduce the speaker's personal experience of pain and the desire for comfort. The use of the word "begging" suggests a sense of desperation and helplessness, as if the speaker is at the mercy of their pain and can do nothing but plead for relief. The word "pray" introduces a religious element to the poem, suggesting that the speaker is seeking solace in a higher power or spiritual force. This religious imagery is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry, and it reflects her deep sense of faith and her belief in the power of the divine to provide comfort and guidance.

The fifth and sixth lines of the poem, "Pain -- is a strange -- Thing -- / and -- Strange -- is the Heart --" introduce the idea that pain is a mysterious and elusive phenomenon that is difficult to understand or explain. The use of the word "strange" suggests that pain is something that is outside of our normal experience, something that is both fascinating and terrifying. The reference to the heart suggests that pain is not just a physical sensation but also a deeply emotional one, affecting us at the core of our being.

The seventh and eighth lines of the poem, "When it goes -- it goes like Swings -- / It hurts -- a little while --" introduce the idea that pain is a transient and fleeting experience that comes and goes like the swings of a pendulum. The use of the word "hurts" suggests that pain is not just a neutral sensation but also a negative one, something that we instinctively want to avoid or escape. The phrase "a little while" suggests that pain is something that we can endure for a limited period of time, but that eventually, it will pass.

The ninth and tenth lines of the poem, "And then -- it's like a Thorn -- / That -- pricks -- and -- stays --" introduce the idea that pain can have a lasting impact on our lives, even after it has passed. The image of a thorn suggests that pain can be sharp and piercing, leaving a lasting mark on our psyche. The use of the word "stays" suggests that pain can become a part of our identity, shaping who we are and how we see the world.

The final two lines of the poem, "And Life -- is about Ourselves -- / As 't were -- a Chambered Nautilus --" introduce the idea that life is a journey of self-discovery, a process of unfolding and growth that is both beautiful and painful. The reference to the chambered nautilus, a type of sea creature that builds its shell in a spiral pattern, suggests that life is a process of continual growth and expansion, with each new experience building upon the previous one. The use of the word "ourselves" suggests that this journey of self-discovery is a deeply personal one, something that we must undertake on our own, with all the pain and beauty that it entails.

In conclusion, "Poetry Pain-Expands the Time" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the relationship between pain, time, and creativity. Through its use of vivid imagery and evocative language, Dickinson captures the essence of the creative process, revealing the ways in which pain can both inspire and hinder our ability to create. By the end of the poem, we are left with a sense of awe and wonder at the complexity and beauty of life, and a renewed appreciation for the power of poetry to capture the essence of the human experience.

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