What does the title of the poem "Precious Words" by Emily Dickinson mean and how is it related to the poem?

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The title isn't a title so much as it's the first line of the poem, a trait typical in Dickinson's work. She rarely gave her poems separate titles that would offer a reflective statement on the work, so calling it "Precious Words" is more a later editorial choice.

Within that first line, however, we can see that the wording is significant: "He ate and drank the precious Words--." This is a poem that points to Dickinson's familiar theme about the power of poetry but uses the conceit of freedom to do so. Eating and drinking precious words liberates the "he" of the poem, giving him wings to rise above the universal problems of poverty and mortality (Dust).

However, this poem has elements that recall other poems by Dickinson that flirt with questions of spirituality or religion. The poem suggests more than just an escape from reality through books. It seems to offer almost a metaphysical transcendence, not unlike other Dickinson poems ("I reckon when I count at all"). That prompts one to reflect more on what the precious Words might be and how one eats and drinks them. In Christian practice, Christ is referred to as "the Word." The Gospel of John begins with the line "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This divine Logos tempted poets from at least the Renaissance to play with the idea of language and divinity, of poetry and god-like creation. This reference would make sense of eating and drinking "the precious Word," for that is what Christian communion requires: to imbibe the Logos of God and to receive salvation in doing so.

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The title of the poem, "Precious Words," refers to the idea expressed in the poem that words are like food: they are valuable (precious) and life-giving. According to Dictionary.com, "precious" can also mean that something is respected for having a spiritual or moral quality. Therefore, words are spiritually valuable: they give life to our spirits, if not to our bodies.

Words give the subject of the poem a sense of having "wings" to fly away from his "dingy" world of poverty. The words in books make his spirit dance. They loosen him up and bring him a sense of liberty.

While the subject of the poem is referred to as "he," Dickinson may well be expressing how words influenced her own life and made her feel free.

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The poem and its title refer to the power of words. Most of us at some point have been transformed in some way by a particular book, one that radically changes our way of being as well as our whole outlook on life. This is the experience that Dickinson relates in the poem. The reader in the poem is a poor man who doesn't have much in life. But after devouring the "precious words" in his book, he is a man transformed. The book takes him out of himself, transporting him to a completely different world far removed from the humdrum existence he currently leads. So much so that he forgets who he is. No more is he a poor man who will one day come to dust, but a free spirit liberated by those precious words that intoxicate, instruct, and delight in equal measure.

Reading a book can be a life-changing experience. And it's that experience that is so beautifully and succinctly captured by Emily Dickinson in "Precious Words."

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The poem, "He ate and drank the precious words", is poem XXI from Dickinson's collection of poetry in "Book One: Life". The poem is about a man who, through the reading of a book, has become metaphorically drunk.

As a result of his intoxication, the man has been able to forget his problems, being poor and his fame has been forgotten. Therefore, the words of the text are so life changing that he, in a sense, has been reborn:

What liberty/A loosened spirit brings.

Based upon this, the title of the poem relates to the meaning of the poem in the sense that the "precious words" which the man read were, in all reality, precious for the man. The man was able to find a new life for himself through the words in the book: truly a precious gift through precious words.

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