illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

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"Witchcraft was hung, in History, / But History and I / Find all the Witchcraft that we need / Around us every Day." What does she mean? What is her sentiment?

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When Dickinson says, "Witchcraft was hung, in History," she seems to mean that modern thinkers no longer believe in witchcraft; it is a thing associated with history only. It is considered to be a superstition of the past, perhaps even something dark and terrible, but the superstitions have been disproved, dismantled, and relegated to history by the present. However, Dickinson says that "History and I / Find all the Witchcraft that we need / Around us, every Day—." In other words, then, for her, magic is still very much alive and well in the present. While most people may not believe in magic during her lifetime, Dickinson purports, in these lines, to still believe in it and to find evidence of magic in her daily life. She even claims to find magic embedded in history as well. Perhaps she refers to the magic of love or relationships and human interaction. Perhaps she refers to the magic of nature when the new flowers sprout each spring or the trees paint themselves in the fall. We cannot know precisely to what she refers, but it's clear that she still believes in a kind of witchcraft, or magic, and sees evidence of it in her life.

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Emily Dickinson's poem "Witchcraft was hung, in History" reminds many about the history of witchcraft in America and England. The topic of study for many within the high school English class walls are not unfamiliar with Arthur Miller's "The Crucible."

The poem speaks to the fact that witchcraft holds a very distinct place in history. Here, Dickinson is recognizing this fact by stating that it (witchcraft) is hung (a reference to the hanging of accused witches during the witch trials) in History (capitalized for significance).

In the next line, Dickinson befriends History by referring to "History and I", "we", and "us."

The last set of lines states that both Witchcraft and Dickinson are still able to find witchcraft around them even given the fact it was already "hung" up prior.

What Dickinson means to convey in the poem is that even though parts of history are hung up (meaning in the past and presumably over/gone) she can still see aspects of it around her every day. Basically, Dickinson is feeling sentimental about the past, but joyful that she is able to recognize it is still around.


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