The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—
by Emily Dickinson
This is an interesting poem because it compares a physically small object (the brain) to vast, huge spaces such as the sky and ocean as well as a theoretically large figure (God). The beginning of the poem sets up the first comparison between the brain and the sky. Dickinson claims that the brain is wider than the sky, yet follows up with “For-put them side by side- The one the other will contain…”. Obviously the sky contains the brain, because the sky is the larger space in which the brain exists. However, figuratively speaking the brain is wider than the sky because it has the ability to learn and access all the information under the sun. Although our brains do not expand very much physically speaking throughout our lifetimes, they are constantly growing in the sense that we learn more and more each day. Then Dickinson goes on to say that “the brain is deeper than the sea“. Clearly the sea reaches thousands of feet deep at some parts, yet Dickinson believes that the brain’s capacity for learning overcomes this physical inequality. When she says “For-hold them-Blue to Blue- The one the other will abosorb- As Sponges-Buckets-do-“, she compares the brain to the sponge and the ocean to the bucket. Anyone would argue that a sponge is smaller than a bucket, but the bucket does not have the same ability as the sponge. A brain inside the ocean would allow the human to explore the environment and learn about the surroundings. This intake of information is quite similar to the way a sponge reacts when immersed in a bucket of water and squeezed. Walker Percy would approve of such an excursion, which is very similar to his story of the dogfish and other authentic experiences. (Ways of Reading 9th Edition.) The last stanza proved to be the most difficult to analyze. However, after much speculation, the meaning is clear. Dickinson states that the brain will differ from the weight of God only in the way that syllable differs from sound. In order to understand this, one must look into the difference between the two comparisons. A syllable is very much like a unit of speech, or a single sound used to form a word. Whereas sound, on the other hand, is more of an uncontrolled source of noise. Therefore a syllable is more characteristic of a human while sound is more abstract, universal, and possibly even divine. This puts the comparison in a much less complex perspective in relation to the rest of the poem. Dickinson is trying to say that just like with the sky and the ocean, the brain can gain information from God and utilize it in the same way that humans use sound to form syllables.
Emily Dickinson (677 words)
AP English 11
12 January 2003
What is transcendentalism? It is the belief that everyone is naturally good but society makes people evil. It is where divinity can be found in nature and in each person. It is where intuition and the individual conscience transcend experience and thus are better guides to truth than the senses. Does Emily Dickinson believe in transcendentalism? Emily has made it clear that she is a transcendentalist through many of her poems.
In the poem The Brainis Wider than the Sky, Dickinson writes about the effects that nature has on humanity. Through this poem, she portrays the triangle of God, Humanity, and Nature, which transcendentalists believed was the necessary existence of life. She states that The brain is wider than the sky, or in other words, humanity is wider than nature, that The brain is deeper than the see, and that The brain is just the weight of God. Humanity will absorb and contain nature, and from God, they will differ- if they do- as a syllable from sound. This poem portrays the idea that one of these aspects of life cannot exist without the other two.
In her poem Water, is taught by thirst, Dickinson is depicting the transcendental belief that there can be no good without evil and vice-versa. It is evident in her poem when she states things such as Transportby throe, and Peaceby its battles told. In these two particular lines she is stating that there is no happiness without the pain you went through to get there and that there is no peace without earning it through a great battle. There is always a bad or negative with the good. Dickinson says that the one thing that mankind desires, needs, wants, or loves came from the opposite of that particular object. This does not mean, however, that that certain object are specifically good or bad, just that its origination came from its opposite.
Dickinsons belief in the importance of solitude and individualism is shown throughout her poem There is a Solitude of Space. Dickinson believes that because solitude is something that people fear, it creates the finite infinity that people have become accustomed or comfortable with. When people come to the realization that they fear solitude, they conform to society. A soul admitted to itselffinite infinity. Dickinson herself was living in solitude, but she was able to write about it and seclude herself from society, knowing that she had a greater knowledge of the right.
Just like in her poem The brainis wider than the sky, Dickinson writes about the effects that nature has on humanity in her poem Theres a Certain Slant of Light. She believes that nature is superior to mankind, even though mankind may think otherwise. This falsity causes the wrath of nature to unleash itself. That oppresses, like the Heft of cathedral tunes. Dickinson believes that nature has a capability to take away the pride that a man might possess. We can find no scar, but an infernal one. When a mans pride is taken away, it leaves an internal stigma. This poem shows us that nature cannot only take away our pride, but it can open us up to new aspects of life. Most people do not realize that there is a big world out there apart from their own in which they may be accustomed to. Transcendentalists believe that the human mind is limited and can only carry knowledge of the physical world, but deeper truths can only be found through personal instinct. None may teach it-Any. This states that nature cannot be taught, but must be found through intuition, which shows the influence of transcendentalism on Dickinson.
From reading Emily Dickinsons poetry one can determine that the main transcendental ideas that she describes are nature and its effects on humans, the relationship between God, humanity, and nature, and the importance of the individual. It can be perceived that Dickinson found her ideas of truth and of life through the beliefs of transcendentalism.
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Related TopicsAmerican ChristiansSpiritualityEmily DickinsonWider than the SkyTranscendentalismNature
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