illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

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Many of Emily Dickinson's poems illustrate a change in the consciousness of the poet or speaker. What are two poems where this happens? How should one trace the process by which the poems reflect and create change? What are the similarities and differences between the changes in these poems?

The first poem is an example of a change from doubt to certainty. The second poem is an example of a change from coldness to warmth.

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Please keep in mind the eNotes policy limiting each Homework Help post to one question. This answer addresses the question, How should one trace the process by which the poems reflect and create change?

In the poem that begins “I never saw a Moor,” the speaker changes from having a...

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Please keep in mind the eNotes policy limiting each Homework Help post to one question. This answer addresses the question, How should one trace the process by which the poems reflect and create change?

In the poem that begins “I never saw a Moor,” the speaker changes from having a negative perspective to a positive one. This can be considered a change from doubt to certainty or to faith. She repeats this process, from “never” and “nor” to “know” and “certain am I.” The change is marked from by first listing terrestrial place types: “Moor,” and “Sea,” and the things that live there or events that occur there, “Heather” and “Billow.” The poet then switches to the abstract, “God” and “Heaven.”

In another poem, she begins with a description of “hope” as “the thing with feathers.” For the first two stanzas, a third-person narrative is maintained, which mentions several characteristics of hope in a metaphorical comparison to a bird. These include its position “perched,” its sweet songs, and its small size. She also says it “kept...people warm.” In the third stanza, the poet switches to first person—“I’ve heard it”—and marks the switch from warmth to cold with “chillest land.”

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In "I heard a Fly buzz" (465), the speaker is on her deathbed. She begins by saying that she heard a fly buzz when she died, then describes the physical details of the environment. The room was still, people had already cried themselves out. They were now just waiting for the speaker's death: for the "last Onset." She notes that her will has been taken care of, but is finally distracted by the fly. One way to interpret this is that, leading up to her death, the speaker imagined a transcendent experience of death. But when the moment arrives, she is focused on things like the fly's buzz. Thus, her passage from living to dead is marked by the clumsy, buzzing fly. It is then, perhaps from beyond the grave, that she understands that the ways in which she understood the world of the living (seeing, hearing, etc.) did not apply to the transition to death or the hereafter. Thus, she could not "see to see." She realizes that during and after death, visual sight could not help her to know ("see") death and/or what follows. 

In "Because I could not stop for Death" (712), the speaker has died (a common theme in Dickinson). She is seduced, so to speak, by Death. His "Civility" is so innocuous that she rides in the carriage as if on a slow, perhaps even pleasing trip. Again, it is at the end of the poem that the speaker has a change of consciousness: a realization. It has been centuries since Death delivered her to her grave, but to her it has felt "shorter than the Day." It was not until this deliverance that she "first surmised the Horses' Heads / Were toward Eternity -". In other words, it wasn't until the end of the trip that she realized she was in that eternal place of death/afterlife. Just like in "I heard a Fly buzz," the speaker could not understand ("see" and "surmise") death until after it had occurred. Death is so mysterious that common human faculties can only speculate about what it is or what might follow. Hence, the attempt to use poetry to articulate that mysteriousness. 

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