As imperceptibly as grief

AS imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away,-
Too imperceptible, at last,
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled,
As twilight long begun,
Or Nature, spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone,-
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing,
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

As in There's a certain Slant of Light where Emily writes about the coming of winter and the affect that it can have on people emotionally, Dickinson refers to the passing of summer in As imperceptibly as grief as she tenderly describes the death of her beloved summer. Using strong figurative statements from Nature she connects human spirituality to nature in her unmistakable voice. It's an expression of delight in the perfect summer, tinged with a grief that it must finish. There is regret at the passage of the season likening the cycles of the seasons to the ongoing nature of man's consciousness. By using nature as proof--articles even -- it's no surprise that passages in some of her most beautiful, successful, and often most popular poems are affirmations of faith by dwelling on on time, death, and eternity.

The religion of her particular background and era exerted a strong influence on her thinking. The end of which put her in a limbo between doubt and faith. Her father was Puritan or interchangeably Calvinist and no doubt her life was one of strict adhenerances. Even so it's apparent from her poetry that Emily Dickinson developed into a mixture of freethinker and Puritan which may explain why from time to time God and religion were treated in a poetically flippant fashion. Composed around 1865 in abcb off-rhyme As imperceptibly as grief is an illustration of her directness and ironic wit about the turning of summer from Miss Emily Dickinson (and yes, I had to look up "perfidy," too:)


Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Dickinson, Emily Elizabeth," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Public domain text taken from Representative Poetry Online:

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