What is the style used by Emily Dickinson in "Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church"?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What creativity Emily Dickinson had? Writing over 2000 poems with only about ten published during her lifetime.  The poem “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”  is one of her verses that was published.  In addition, unlike most of her poems, she actually named this poem: “My Sabbath.”

Raised in the strict Calvinistic religion, Dickinson rebelled against the rigidity of organized religion.  Despite this, Dickinson had a strong relationship with God and nature.

Style and Form

Well-education and well-read—Dickinson was familiar with the English novelists and poets of the time. Dickinson’s poetry is often catalogued under the plain style of writing. Her poetry diverges from the popular English style which uses ornate poetic language and an exalted view of nature.

The plain style involves using straightforward,  experiential language. The vocabulary was uncluttered with flowery adjectives.  Although some of the language may seem difficult today, in Dickinson’s time her diction and word choice were considered unpretentious. Nothing that Dickinson wrote is hard to read; however, the reader must look beneath the words for her “wit and wisdom.”

This clever and beautiful poem speaks to the heart of anyone who loves both nature and God. It is difficult not to agree with her rather irreverent view of actually going to a church service when a person can commune with him in the outdoor house of God.   

There is no specific form that Dickinson uses for this poem. It does have a hymn blended with a poem quality.  Written in three quatrains, the rhyming follows a ballad style with only the even numbered lines rhyming. The rhyme scheme for each verse would be ABCB. As in many of her verses, she follows an iambic tetrameter with four emphasized syllables.

Though probably an actual ritual for Dickinson and regarded as a serious occasion, her tone is still playful, uplifting and somewhat sardonic.

Summary

1st stanza

The poet does not feel the need to intermingle with the other people who actually worship in the church building.

She has her services in her garden/orchard which serve as her worship place.

No need of a human choir because Dickinson has the bobolink bird chirping out his natural songs.

2nd stanza

To Dickinson, some people dress for church in accordance with fashion and religious requirements.  To the poet, all she needs are her wings. As a child of God she needs to be only herself. There is no need for the church bells because her sexton [the man who cares for the church bells] is the little bird who sings its songs.

3rd stanza

God is her preacher, whom she ironically calls a noted minister.

His sermons are never boring or too long.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman-

And the sermon is never long,

So instead of getting to Heaven, at least-

I'm going, all along.

Dickinson is not waiting on to Heaven after she dies. When she is in her natural church with God at her side, she is already in her Heaven.

Sources:

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