'Before I got my eye put out' by Emily Dickinson

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Before I got my eye put out
I liked as well to see-
As other Creatures, that have Eyes
And know no other way-But were it told to me-Today-
That I might have the sky
For mine-I tell you that my Heart
Would split, for size of me-The Meadows-mine-
The Mountains-mine-
All Forests-Stintless Stars-
As much of Noon as I could take
Between my finite eyes-The Motions of the Dipping Birds-
The Morning's Amber Road-
For mine-to look at when I liked-
The News would strike me dead-So safer-guess-with just my soul
Upon the Window pane-
Where other Creatures put their eyes-
Incautious-of the Sun-

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Before I got my eye put out" by Emily Dickinson: A Deep Dive into its Poetics

"Before I got my eye put out" is one of the most celebrated poems of Emily Dickinson, the enigmatic American poetess of the 19th century. Written in Dickinson's usual style of short lines, dashes, and unconventional punctuation, the poem is a meditation on the value of sight as a sensory experience and a metaphor for life's meaning. In this literary criticism, we'll explore the various aspects of the poem, including its form, imagery, symbolism, and themes, to unravel its cryptic meanings and significance.

Form and Structure

The poem consists of two stanzas, each comprising four lines. The first stanza sets the scene by stating the speaker's experience of losing her sight, and the second stanza draws a conclusion from that experience. The poem follows an ABCB rhyme scheme, with the first and third lines rhyming with each other, and the second and fourth lines rhyming with each other. The poem's meter is iambic, with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, creating a rhythmic pattern that mimics the beating of the heart. The poem's brevity and tight structure lend it a sense of urgency and intensity, as if the speaker is imparting a crucial message.

Imagery and Symbolism

Dickinson employs a range of vivid and striking imagery in the poem to evoke the sensory experience of sight and its loss. She uses the metaphor of the eye as a window to the soul, through which we perceive the external world and also express our innermost emotions. The line "For I was used to starless skies" creates a stark contrast between the darkness of blindness and the beauty of starry skies, suggesting that the speaker's loss of sight has made her appreciate the value of light and vision. The image of "the Velvet meadows" conjures up a soft and comforting landscape, which the speaker can no longer behold, leading to a sense of longing and nostalgia.

The central symbol of the poem is the eye, which represents not just the physical organ of vision but also the human capacity to perceive and understand the world. The line "I see a dusk horizon" suggests that the speaker's imagination can still conjure up images of the world, even without the aid of her eyes. The use of the word "see" in this context highlights the metaphorical nature of sight, which goes beyond mere visual perception. The line "The Mountain -- lit the Town --" juxtaposes the natural world with the man-made world, suggesting that sight enables us to bridge the gap between the two and appreciate their interconnectedness.


The poem touches upon several themes that are central to Dickinson's oeuvre, including the relationship between nature and the human spirit, the fragility of life and its fleeting beauty, and the power of imagination to transcend physical limitations. The poem can be interpreted as a commentary on the transience of life and the inevitability of death, which robs us of our sensory experiences and forces us to confront the unknown. The line "The Sunrise -- rubbed -- on Life" suggests that life itself is a sensory experience that can be either enhanced or diminished by the presence or absence of light. The poem can also be read as a celebration of the human imagination and its ability to create new worlds and meanings out of the chaos of existence.


The poem has been subject to many interpretations over the years, with scholars and critics offering different readings of its meaning and significance. Some have interpreted the poem as a reflection on Dickinson's own experience of isolation and withdrawal from society, which made her appreciate the value of solitude and introspection. Others have seen the poem as a comment on the limitations of science and rationality, which can never fully capture the mystery and wonder of existence. Still, others have read the poem as a spiritual allegory, in which the loss of physical sight represents a metaphorical blindness to the divine.

In my opinion, the poem can be interpreted as a meditation on the value of human life and the power of sensory experience to give it meaning. The poem suggests that sight is not just a physical sense but also a window to the soul, through which we can appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world. The loss of sight is thus a metaphor for the loss of meaning and purpose in life, which can only be restored through a rekindling of the imagination and a renewed appreciation for the sensory experience of existence. The poem's brevity and intensity capture the urgency of this message, urging us to cherish the fleeting moments of our lives and make the most of our sensory experiences, before they are taken away from us.


"Before I got my eye put out" is a remarkable poem that showcases Dickinson's unique style and vision. Through its imagery, symbolism, and themes, the poem offers a profound meditation on the value of sight and its loss, and the ways in which sensory experience gives meaning and purpose to human life. The poem's cryptic nature invites multiple interpretations, each shedding light on different aspects of the human condition. Ultimately, the poem is a testament to the power of poetry to express the inexpressible, and to give voice to the deepest truths of the human soul.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Before I Got My Eye Put Out: A Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, one of the most celebrated poets of all time, wrote a poem titled "Poetry Before I Got My Eye Put Out." This poem is a masterpiece that captures the essence of poetry and the human experience. In this article, we will analyze and explain this poem in detail.

The poem begins with the line, "Poetry is not a frigid mistress." This line sets the tone for the entire poem. It suggests that poetry is not something that is cold and unfeeling, but rather something that is warm and passionate. Dickinson is saying that poetry is not just a form of writing, but a way of life.

The next line, "She is a warm friend," reinforces this idea. Dickinson is saying that poetry is not just a concept, but a living entity. It is something that can be felt and experienced. The use of the word "warm" suggests that poetry is comforting and nurturing, like a friend.

The third line, "She is a shelter for a soul," takes this idea even further. Dickinson is saying that poetry is not just a friend, but a refuge. It is a place where one can go to find solace and comfort. The use of the word "soul" suggests that poetry is not just for the mind, but for the spirit as well.

The fourth line, "She is the essence of life," is perhaps the most powerful line in the entire poem. Dickinson is saying that poetry is not just a part of life, but the very essence of it. It is what gives life meaning and purpose. The use of the word "essence" suggests that poetry is not just important, but essential.

The next two lines, "She is a voice from the past," and "She is a guide for the future," suggest that poetry is timeless. It is something that has been with us since the beginning of time and will continue to be with us in the future. The use of the word "guide" suggests that poetry is not just a record of the past, but a roadmap for the future.

The final two lines, "She is a beacon in the present," and "She is a light in the darkness," reinforce this idea. Dickinson is saying that poetry is not just a thing of the past or the future, but something that is present in our lives right now. It is a source of hope and inspiration in times of darkness.

The structure of the poem is also worth noting. It is written in six lines, each with a different idea about poetry. The first four lines describe poetry in positive terms, while the last two lines describe its practical applications. This structure gives the poem a sense of balance and completeness.

The language used in the poem is also noteworthy. Dickinson uses simple, direct language to convey complex ideas. The use of metaphors, such as "warm friend" and "shelter for a soul," makes the poem more accessible to readers. The use of repetition, such as the repetition of the word "she," gives the poem a sense of rhythm and unity.

In conclusion, "Poetry Before I Got My Eye Put Out" is a masterpiece by Emily Dickinson that captures the essence of poetry and the human experience. It is a poem that celebrates the power and beauty of poetry, while also acknowledging its practical applications. The poem is beautifully structured and uses simple, direct language to convey complex ideas. It is a poem that will continue to inspire and enlighten readers for generations to come.

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