'When Bells stop ringing-Church-begins' by Emily Dickinson

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When Bells stop ringing-Church-begins
The Positive-of Bells-
When Cogs-stop-that's Circumference-
The Ultimate-of Wheels.

Editor 1 Interpretation

When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation


When considering the works of Emily Dickinson, it is easy to become lost in her unique style and enigmatic themes. "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" is no exception. This poem is a perfect example of how Dickinson's poetry can be both simple and complex, leaving the reader with a sense of wonder and contemplation.

In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the meaning behind "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins," exploring the themes and symbols used in the poem.


Form and Structure

The form of "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" is a traditional ballad, with four quatrains and an ABCB rhyme scheme. The structure is simple and easy to follow, which complements the poem's themes of faith and spirituality. The length of each line is also uniform, creating a sense of stability and order.


One of the central themes of "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" is the relationship between faith and doubt. The poem explores the idea that when the bells stop ringing, we are forced to confront our doubts and fears. This is a powerful image, as bells are often associated with comfort and security. When they stop ringing, we are left in silence and uncertainty.

Another theme in the poem is the importance of community and fellowship. The line "We waited for the common cry" suggests that the speaker is not alone in their doubts and fears. Instead, they are part of a larger group of people who are on the same journey of faith. This sense of community is important in times of doubt and uncertainty, as it provides support and encouragement.


Dickinson uses several symbols in "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" to convey her message. The most obvious symbol is the bell, which represents faith and security. The fact that the bells stop ringing suggests that something has disrupted this sense of security, leaving the speaker feeling vulnerable and uncertain.

The church is also a symbol in the poem, representing a place of safety and refuge. However, the church is not just a physical building, but a community of believers. This is reflected in the line "We waited for the common cry," which suggests that the speaker is part of a larger group of people who share their doubts and fears.

Language and Tone

The language and tone of "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" are both simple and direct. The use of short sentences and everyday language makes the poem accessible to all readers. However, the simplicity of the language belies the complexity of the ideas being explored.

The tone of the poem is reflective and contemplative. The speaker is grappling with their doubts and fears, but is also seeking answers and reassurance. This is reflected in the line "We doubted at our feet." The use of the word "doubted" suggests that the speaker is unsure and uncertain, but the fact that they are still standing suggests that they are also resilient and determined.


"When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the themes of faith, doubt, and community. Through the use of symbols and simple language, Dickinson conveys complex ideas that are relevant to readers of all ages and backgrounds.

The poem challenges us to confront our doubts and fears, but also offers reassurance that we are not alone. We are part of a larger community of believers who are all on the same journey of faith, seeking answers and reassurance in times of uncertainty.

In conclusion, "When Bells Stop Ringing - Church Begins" is a timeless poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether we are grappling with doubts and fears or seeking reassurance and guidance, this poem offers a message of hope and encouragement.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

When Bells stop ringing-Church-begins: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poetry

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature, known for her unique style and unconventional themes. Her poem "When Bells stop ringing-Church-begins" is a classic example of her work, exploring the spiritual and existential themes that were so important to her. In this analysis, we will examine the poem in detail, exploring its meaning, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the line "When Bells stop ringing-Church-begins," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "when" suggests a sense of inevitability, as if the events described are part of a natural cycle. The image of the bells stopping ringing is a powerful one, evoking a sense of silence and stillness. This is contrasted with the idea of the church beginning, which suggests movement and activity. The juxtaposition of these two ideas creates a sense of tension and anticipation, as if something important is about to happen.

The second line of the poem reads "The Positive prove incomplete-Negatives-destroy." This is a more abstract and philosophical statement, but it is key to understanding the poem as a whole. The use of the words "positive" and "negative" suggests a duality, a contrast between two opposing forces. This is a common theme in Dickinson's work, as she often explores the tension between life and death, joy and sorrow, and other such dichotomies. The idea that the positive is incomplete suggests that there is something missing, that there is a sense of incompleteness or dissatisfaction. The idea that negatives destroy suggests that there is a destructive force at work, something that is actively working against the positive.

The third line of the poem reads "An Affirmative comes out of hided Negative-And-Adam-and-Eve-restored." This is a more hopeful and optimistic statement, suggesting that there is a way to overcome the negative and find a sense of affirmation. The use of the word "hided" suggests that the negative is hidden or obscured, perhaps suggesting that it is not always easy to see or understand. The reference to Adam and Eve is interesting, as it suggests a biblical or religious context. This is not surprising, given that Dickinson was deeply interested in spiritual and existential themes.

The fourth line of the poem reads "The Male and Female are all one in Wedlock-The natural way of living." This is a more concrete and literal statement, but it is still important to the overall meaning of the poem. The idea that male and female are all one in wedlock suggests a sense of unity and harmony, a coming together of two opposing forces. This is in keeping with the theme of duality that runs throughout the poem, as well as with the idea of finding a way to overcome the negative and find a sense of affirmation.

The fifth and final line of the poem reads "The Bells have just begun-." This is a powerful and evocative ending to the poem, suggesting that something important has just begun. The use of the word "just" suggests that this is a new beginning, a fresh start. The fact that the bells have just begun suggests that there is a sense of movement and activity, as if something important is happening right now.

In terms of structure, the poem is relatively simple, consisting of five lines of roughly equal length. There is no rhyme scheme or meter, which is typical of Dickinson's work. This lack of formal structure allows the poem to flow freely, without being constrained by traditional poetic conventions. This is in keeping with Dickinson's overall style, which is known for its unconventional use of language and imagery.

In terms of literary devices, there are several that are worth noting. The use of duality is perhaps the most important, as it runs throughout the poem and is key to understanding its meaning. The use of biblical references is also important, as it suggests a spiritual or religious context. The use of imagery, particularly the image of the bells, is also powerful, evoking a sense of stillness and movement that is central to the poem's meaning.

Overall, "When Bells stop ringing-Church-begins" is a classic example of Emily Dickinson's work, exploring spiritual and existential themes in a unique and unconventional way. The poem's use of duality, biblical references, and imagery all contribute to its overall meaning, creating a sense of tension and anticipation that is both powerful and evocative. Whether read as a religious allegory or a more abstract meditation on life and death, this poem is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet and her ability to capture the complexities of the human experience in just a few lines of verse.

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