illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

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What does purple symbolize in Emily Dickinson's "Bloom upon the Mountain - stated"?

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In this poem, the speaker watches as the sunset turns the mountain top in front of it a deep purple. She considers how, if she had created such a beautiful purple, she would do so during the day and not at twilight, when so many people will miss it, thus making herself famous. She laments that there is no other witness to its beauty, and the color spreads and spreads—like a flower blooming —until the sun dips below the horizon and the mountain returns to its usual appearance at night.

So, I think the purple could symbolize a few different things. First, it could symbolize all the beauty in the world that people typically do not see. Only the speaker notices the beautiful purple bloom on the mountain, and she feels a bit sad that there are no other witnesses to share in her awe of it. I think it could also symbolize the beauty within ourselves that others may not be able to see or recognize. The speaker thinks that she would parcel out her purple during the day time if she had some, but her ability to stop and recognize the sublimity of nature when none others are around seems to indicate that she is, actually, pretty special. Moreover, since purple often signifies royalty or even divinity, it could symbolize the relationship between God and Nature, or even God and human beings.

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This is a poem that clearly depicts an awe-inspiring scene from nature that Dickinson tries to convey as she watches a sunset silhouette a mountain and make it appear as if the mountain top has a "bloom" because of the way that the sun is setting. Purple is used in the second stanza in the following way:

Seed, had I, my Purple Sowing
Should endow the Day –
Not a Topic of a Twilight –
Show itself away –

Purple is normally a colour that Dickinson uses in her poetry to refer to the divine majesty and imperial rule of God and Jesus, and often purple therefore refers to some kind of magnitude or sense of stunning beauty that can only be related to God's power and creativity. Here, the purple refers to the speaker's act of "Sowing," perhaps refering to the way that she is trying to capture the beauty of this scene, and thus "endow the Day" that she is so struck by. Purple then relates to the majesty of the scene from nature that she is so struck by and which impresses her so greatly.

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