The bustle in the house (1078)

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth.

The sweeping up the heart
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

Emily Dickinson(1830-1886)

A play on words the mourning after a death reflects the time following the death of a loved one. The poem is full of reverence for this solemnest of industries. Emily Dickinson names the domestic activities done to pay homage to the departed whom we will love again from the unfathomable eternity.

At its core is the familiar need we all feel to keep ourselves busy with countless activities after a death. The sad image as we clean our hearts -- to prevent us from dwelling too long on sorrow, the pain of loss. How true as Lord Brawl observes, "Perhaps "sweeping up the heart" is a play on 'sweeping the hearth'." The miracle of the poem is the tidying up, but all the while the sweep of eternal wind is drafting through the house; the foundation-shaking finality of Death dwarfing the bustle of domestic chores.

With the simplicity of the images of home and tidying set side by side in the poem against the immensity of its subject make it, like the death of a loved one, quite overwhelming.


Public domain text taken from Representative Poetry Online:


For copyright information please see my write-up under Emily Dickinson.
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