How do Emily Dickinson's lyric poems resemble hymns

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howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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The meter in Dickinson's poems is usually traditional hymn meter. Most hymns are written in iambic meter... an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. Many of Emily Dickinson's poems follow this same metrical pattern. Perhaps one of the most famous hymns is "Amazing Grace" - "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/I once was lost, but now am found/was blind, but now I see"

If you look at some of Dickinson's poetry, you'll notice that it can easily be sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace" Especially this poem:

If you were coming in the Fall
Emily Dickinson

If you were coming in the fall,
I ’d brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn,
As housewives do a fly.

If I could see you in a year,     5
I ’d wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers,
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I ’d count them on my hand,     10
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s land.

If certain, when this life was out,
That yours and mine should be,
I ’d toss it yonder like a rind,     15
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time’s uncertain wing,
It goads me, like the goblin bee,     20
That will not state its sting.

When you try to sing Dickinson's poetry to the tune of many popular Protestant hymns, you will find that this phenomenon holds true.

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