Discuss the theme of love in Emily Dickinson's poem "Valentine Week."

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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According to the editor of the book The Poems of Emily Dickinson, the poem "Valentine Week" is her oldest known poem. It is dated March 4, 1850, and Dickinson would have been 19 when she wrote it. She gave the poem to Elbridge G. Bowdoin, but sadly he had another valentine because the editor comments that Bowdoin then gave the poem to another girl, Anna M. Kellogg. Poor Emily!

I often tell my students that there is not just one theme in a piece of literature. In most you can find several themes, or ideas, presented. This poem, however, seems to be solely about love and how wonderful love is. She begins by asking the muses to capture her valentine for her. Then she states that love is natural, that all of creation is meant to be paired. Indeed, the earth was created for lovers!

Then she tells the recipient that it is not natural for him to be alone, to be single, "a being cold, and lone." She names six girls who would be suitable partners; it is thought that Dickinson herself was "the girl with curling hair." She encourages him to choose one of these "maidens" and carry her away to build her a bower, a way of saying that he needs to marry one of these girls and make a home with her. Only then can they "go to glory home!"




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