'"Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me' by Emily Dickinson

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"Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me-
"Mansions"! Mansions must be warm!
Mansions cannot let the tears in,
Mansions must exclude the storm!"Many Mansions," by "his Father,"
I don't know him; snugly built!
Could the Children find the way there-
Some, would even trudge tonight!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me: A Critical Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time. Her poems have been studied, analyzed, and interpreted by scholars and literary enthusiasts for decades. One of her most famous works is "Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me. This poem is a reflection of the poet's deep understanding of human emotions, and it provides insight into the human condition. In this article, we will take a closer look at the poem and explore its meaning.


Before we dive into the poem, it's important to understand the context in which it was written. Emily Dickinson lived in the mid-19th century, a time when women were not encouraged to pursue their passions or express themselves creatively. Dickinson was an exception; she was a gifted poet who found solace and comfort in her writing. Her poems were deeply personal, and many of them were not published until after her death.

"Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me was written sometime in the mid-1860s. Dickinson was in her thirties at the time, and she had already established herself as a poet. The poem is one of her shorter works, consisting of only four stanzas, each with two lines. Despite its brevity, the poem is powerful and thought-provoking, and it has inspired many readers over the years.


The first stanza of the poem reads:

Houses—so the Wise Men tell me—
"Mansions"! Mansions must be warm!
Mansions cannot let the tears in,
Mansions must exclude the storm!

In this stanza, Dickinson is exploring the idea of houses and mansions. The "Wise Men" in the first line are likely a reference to religious scholars or philosophers who have pondered the meaning of life. The poem suggests that these wise men have concluded that mansions are superior to houses. Mansions are associated with wealth and luxury, and they are often seen as the ultimate symbol of success.

However, Dickinson challenges this notion by pointing out that mansions are not immune to the hardships of life. Mansions may be warm and comfortable, but they cannot keep out tears or storms. In other words, no matter how much wealth or power a person possesses, they are still subject to the same emotional and physical difficulties as everyone else.

The second stanza reads:

Mansions cannot mend the heart that
locked itself in them—
Nor care for the cry of He who
dwelt—the other side the name—

This stanza continues to explore the limitations of mansions. The reference to the heart that locked itself in them suggests that people can become trapped in their own wealth and privilege. They may hide behind their possessions and their status, but this cannot heal the wounds of the heart.

The second half of the stanza refers to the cry of "He who dwelt—the other side the name." This is a reference to Jesus Christ, who was born in a stable rather than a mansion. Dickinson is suggesting that wealth and status are not the most important things in life. Even the son of God lived a humble life and cared for those who were less fortunate.

The third stanza reads:

This was the road the Wise Men
Then—if He went the other—
He had nothing to show them
But Calvaries—on Calvaries!

This stanza is a continuation of the religious theme that runs throughout the poem. The Wise Men referred to in the first stanza are likely a reference to the Magi who visited Jesus after his birth. The poem suggests that the Wise Men chose the road that led to Jesus' humble birthplace rather than a mansion.

The second half of the stanza refers to the fact that Jesus' life was marked by suffering and sacrifice. The reference to Calvaries (the site of Jesus' crucifixion) suggests that those who follow him must also be prepared to endure hardships.

The final stanza reads:

"Who cannot praise the God who
gave Himself for Wealth?"—
Myself—am poorer for
The Luxury—to "relinquish" —

The final stanza is a reflection on the idea of wealth and luxury. Dickinson is suggesting that those who are wealthy and privileged may be blinded to the true meaning of life. They may mistake their possessions for true happiness and fail to see the value of sacrifice and selflessness.

The final line of the poem, "Myself—am poorer for / The Luxury—to 'relinquish'" is a powerful statement. Dickinson is suggesting that she has chosen to give up material possessions and status in order to pursue a more meaningful life. She is saying that true wealth comes from giving rather than taking.


So what does all of this mean? "Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me is a poem that challenges the idea that wealth and power are the ultimate goals in life. Dickinson is suggesting that true happiness and fulfillment come from a life of purpose and sacrifice.

The poem is also a critique of the culture of the time. In the mid-19th century, the United States was experiencing rapid industrialization, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor was widening. Dickinson was likely aware of these social and economic changes, and her poem can be seen as a response to them.

Finally, the poem is a reflection of Dickinson's own life. The poet lived a reclusive life, and she was not interested in pursuing wealth or fame. Instead, she found happiness in her poetry and in the simplicity of her daily routines.


"Houses"-so the Wise Men tell me is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that challenges our ideas about wealth, power, and happiness. Dickinson's insight and wisdom continue to inspire readers today, and her message is as relevant now as it was over a century ago. Despite her reclusive lifestyle, Dickinson's poetry has touched countless people, and her legacy as one of the great poets of all time remains secure.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Houses - so the Wise Men tell me, is a classic poem written by the renowned American poet, Emily Dickinson. This poem is a beautiful representation of the human experience and the way we perceive the world around us. In this article, we will delve deeper into the meaning and significance of this poem and explore the various literary devices used by Dickinson to convey her message.

The poem begins with the line, "Houses - so the Wise Men tell me," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "Wise Men" suggests that the speaker is seeking knowledge or guidance from those who are more knowledgeable than herself. This is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry, as she often explores the idea of seeking knowledge and understanding from others.

The next line, "Houses - so the Wise Men tell me - / "Mansions"! Mansions must be warm!" is a perfect example of Dickinson's use of repetition to emphasize a point. The repetition of the word "Mansions" highlights the speaker's desire for a grand and luxurious home. The use of the exclamation mark also adds to the excitement and enthusiasm of the speaker.

The third line, "Mansions cannot hide the seamy / Little - Letting in the Day," is where the poem takes a turn. The use of the word "seamy" suggests that there is something dark or unpleasant hidden beneath the surface of these grand mansions. The phrase "Letting in the Day" suggests that the speaker is aware of this darkness and is seeking to bring it to light.

The fourth line, "And the glare when Little Fingers / Lead the Blind along the Hall," is a powerful image that highlights the vulnerability of those who are blind. The use of the word "glare" suggests that the light is too bright for them to see, and they are relying on the guidance of others to navigate their way through the mansion. This image is a metaphor for the way we rely on others to guide us through life.

The fifth line, "Evening - we are tired -" is a simple yet effective line that conveys the exhaustion that comes with the end of the day. The use of the word "we" suggests that the speaker is not alone in this feeling, and it is a universal experience.

The final two lines of the poem, "And the evening rest at "Achilles," / May the Aged wake to Spring!" are a beautiful conclusion to the poem. The use of the word "Achilles" suggests that the speaker is seeking rest and rejuvenation after a long day. The final line, "May the Aged wake to Spring!" is a hopeful message that suggests that even in old age, there is the possibility of renewal and new beginnings.

Overall, Houses - so the Wise Men tell me is a beautiful poem that explores the human experience and our desire for comfort and luxury. Dickinson's use of repetition, metaphor, and imagery all work together to create a powerful and thought-provoking piece of poetry. This poem is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet and her ability to capture the essence of the human experience in just a few lines.

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