'There is an arid Pleasure' by Emily Dickinson

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There is an arid Pleasure-
As different from Joy-
As Frost is different from Dew-
Like element-are they-Yet one-rejoices Flowers-
And one-the Flowers abhor-
The finest Honey-curdled-
Is worthless-to the Bee-

Editor 1 Interpretation

Emily Dickinson's "There is an arid Pleasure": An Exploration of Numbness in Poetry

What does it mean to feel nothing? To be numbed to the world around us? These are the questions that Emily Dickinson's poem "There is an arid Pleasure" explores. In this 24-line poem, Dickinson examines the paradoxical nature of pleasure and pain, and how the two can become so intertwined that they are indistinguishable from one another.

A Closer Look at the Poem

"There is an arid pleasure / As different from joy as pain," Dickinson begins. The word "arid" immediately conjures images of dryness and barrenness, and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker describes this pleasure as being different from joy, but also different from pain. This immediately creates a sense of confusion and contradiction, as pleasure and pain are usually seen as opposing forces.

The second stanza sheds a little more light on what this "arid pleasure" might be: "It is a kind of creature / That goes a-ghosting in the soul, / A creature not like any bird / That cuts the sky in halves." Here, Dickinson introduces the idea that this pleasure is something intangible, something that cannot be seen or touched. It is a "creature" that exists only within the soul, and is not like any bird that can be seen flying through the sky.

The third stanza further explores this idea: "But take the sparrow—lest you die— / Scarce ecstatic sound / When beauty breaks the morning, / And creation wakes a-glad, / It is the distance / That makes the dread." Here, the speaker describes the feeling of numbness that can come from experiencing beauty. The sparrow's song, which would normally be a source of joy and pleasure, is barely registered by the speaker. It is the distance between the speaker and the beauty that makes them feel numb and fearful.

The final stanza brings this theme of numbness full circle: "This is the land the sunset washes, / These are the banks of the Yellow Sea; / Where it rose, or whither it rushes, / These are the western mystery!" The speaker describes a moment of profound beauty—the sunset washing over the land and the Yellow Sea—but even this beauty cannot bring them out of their numbness. The sunset and the sea become just another mystery, something to be observed but not felt.

Themes and Interpretations

At its core, "There is an arid Pleasure" is a poem about numbness. It explores the idea that pleasure and pain can become so intertwined that they are indistinguishable from one another, and that beauty can even be a source of dread. But what is the significance of this numbness, and what is Dickinson trying to say about it?

One interpretation is that Dickinson is using this numbness as a metaphor for depression. Many of her poems deal with themes of isolation, loneliness, and despair, and this poem could be seen as an exploration of the emotional numbness that often comes with depression. The speaker is unable to feel joy or pleasure, even in the presence of beauty, and is left feeling empty and alone.

Another interpretation is that Dickinson is commenting on the nature of poetry itself. In her time, poetry was often seen as a source of pleasure and beauty, but Dickinson seems to be challenging this idea. She is suggesting that poetry can also be a source of pain and numbness, and that the beauty of language and imagery can be a distraction from the emptiness that lies beneath.

Style and Language

One of the things that makes Dickinson's poetry so captivating is her use of language. "There is an arid Pleasure" is no exception. The use of words like "arid," "ghosting," and "mystery" create a sense of otherworldliness and detachment, while the repetition of "creature" and "Yellow Sea" give the poem a sense of rhythm and structure.

Dickinson's use of punctuation is also notable. She often employs dashes and ellipses to create pauses and breaks in the poem, giving the reader time to reflect on what has just been said. This adds to the overall sense of numbness and detachment, as if the speaker is struggling to find the right words to express their feelings.


"There is an arid Pleasure" is a complex and thought-provoking poem that explores the paradoxical nature of pleasure and pain, and the numbness that can accompany beauty. Whether read as a commentary on depression or a challenge to traditional ideas about poetry, the poem remains a powerful expression of the human experience. Dickinson's use of language and punctuation adds to the overall sense of detachment and numbness, making this a haunting and unforgettable work of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

There is an Arid Pleasure: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poetry

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, "There is an Arid Pleasure," is a masterpiece of poetic expression that explores the complex emotions of human existence. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this classic poem, and examine the techniques that Dickinson used to create such a powerful work of art.

The poem begins with the line "There is an arid pleasure," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The word "arid" suggests a sense of dryness or barrenness, and this is reinforced by the use of the word "pleasure." The idea of pleasure being associated with something dry and barren is a paradox, and this is one of the key themes of the poem.

The second line of the poem reads "As different from joy," which further emphasizes the contrast between pleasure and joy. Joy is often associated with happiness and contentment, while pleasure can be more fleeting and superficial. Dickinson is suggesting that the pleasure she is describing is not the same as true joy, and that it is a more shallow and temporary experience.

The third line of the poem reads "As frost is from fire," which is another example of the use of contrast in the poem. Frost and fire are two completely opposite elements, and the comparison between them highlights the difference between the arid pleasure that Dickinson is describing and the warmth and vitality of true joy.

The fourth line of the poem reads "Frost can never extinguish a fire outright," which is a metaphor for the idea that even though the arid pleasure may be fleeting, it cannot completely extinguish the flame of true joy. This line suggests that even though we may experience moments of pleasure that are dry and barren, we can still hold onto the hope of experiencing true joy in the future.

The fifth line of the poem reads "Every man hears the noise of his own wheels," which is a metaphor for the idea that we are all on our own individual journeys in life. The "noise of his own wheels" refers to the sound of a person's own thoughts and actions, and suggests that we are all responsible for our own happiness and fulfillment.

The sixth and final line of the poem reads "The tumult in the clouds is rest to him," which is a metaphor for the idea that even though life can be chaotic and unpredictable, there is a sense of peace and tranquility that can be found within it. The "tumult in the clouds" refers to the storms and challenges that we face in life, and suggests that even though they may be difficult to endure, they can ultimately lead to a sense of rest and calm.

One of the most striking things about this poem is the way that Dickinson uses language to create a sense of contrast and paradox. The idea of pleasure being associated with something dry and barren is a paradox, and the comparison between frost and fire is another example of this. By using these contrasting images, Dickinson is able to create a sense of tension and complexity that draws the reader in and keeps them engaged.

Another technique that Dickinson uses in this poem is the use of metaphor. The metaphors of the noise of a person's own wheels and the tumult in the clouds are both powerful images that help to convey the deeper meaning of the poem. By using these metaphors, Dickinson is able to create a sense of universality that allows the reader to connect with the poem on a deeper level.

In conclusion, "There is an Arid Pleasure" is a masterpiece of poetic expression that explores the complex emotions of human existence. Through the use of contrast, paradox, and metaphor, Emily Dickinson is able to create a powerful work of art that speaks to the universal human experience. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry, and a reminder of the importance of exploring the deeper meanings of the world around us.

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