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August 8, 2014

Wild nights - Wild nights! (#269) by Emily Dickinson- Analysis

Wild nights - Wild nights! (#269) by Emily Dickinson- Analysis

Emily Dickinson's poem number 269 (Franklin)/249 (Johnson) is one that is in many ways confusing to read. I say this because there is so much about this poem that we will never be able to understand; such as, who is the "thee" that she refers to in this poem, is it Eden, the Sea, or is it an actual person? We can never know for sure who she is talking to or about in this poem, since in many ways Dickinson was a very private person; also, we must keep in mind that this poem may not even be about her or something that she wished would come to fruition. The one thing that we do know is that there is an erotic overtone, which is achieved through word choice and separating the poem up into three distinct parts: longing, frustration, and then finally satisfaction.

In the first stanza, the speaker expresses a sense of longing. "Wild nights-Wild nights" is the opening line of this poem; the phrase "Wild nights" suggests that the poem will have an erotic theme. Dickinson routinely uses dashes to create a noticeable pause between words; in this first stanza, she only uses one dash, which is in the first line. The dash and the repetition of phrase, in the first line, creates a feeling of longing. There is something about those nights that the speaker is longing to relive or revisit. It is also interesting to note that "Wild" is capitalized in both phrases, but "nights" is not capitalized in either. In the second line, we get introduced to "thee," which is archaic English for the word "you" and used when "you" is the object of the sentence instead of the subject of the sentence. It is unclear who "thee" is referring to, but given the opening line we are led to believe that "thee" is a person that the speaker wishes to spend more "Wild nights" with. The second line, "were I with thee," furthers the notion that the speaker of the poem is feeling a sense of longing; she wants to be with whoever or whatever "thee" is. In the last two lines, the speaker states that "wild nights should be our luxury!" Wild nights are not a luxury that is afforded to the speaker, which suggests that there is some sort of barrier between her and thee, whether it be a physical, social, personal, parental, or religious barrier we do not know.

The speaker moves on from a feeling of longing to be with "thee" to that of complete frustration at not being able to be with "thee." The second stanza is a metaphor for hopelessness. The speaker imagines herself stuck in a port unable to get to "thee," because there is a storm that is preventing her from leaving port. The first word of this stanza is "futile," meaning useless; to start a stanza off with a negative word such as futile suggests that this section of the poem is going to focus on her dissatisfaction and frustration. The winds from the storm are useless to her, because her "Heart" is stuck "in port;" a port is a place where ships may ride secure from storms, a harbor. Dickinson capitalizing the word "Heart" leads us to believe that "thee" has a special hold on the speaker's "Heart;" her heart is the driving force behind her venturing out to sea to try and get to her "thee." The last two lines of this stanza is where her frustration hits an all-time high, which is evident by the word "Done" beginning both lines; she is done with her compass and charts (a map; or an outline map showing special conditions or facts: a weather chart). This stanza was the climax of the poem where all of her feelings of longing and frustration joined together to bring her right up to her breaking point.

The final stanza has an air of satisfaction that almost seems dream-like; somehow her hope that she will one day be with "thee" has been renewed. She is now rowing in Eden; it is unclear if Eden is metaphor for someplace beautiful or if she is talking about Eden, Maine (now Bar Harbor, Maine). The "Ah" in line ten is exclamation of peace and contentment. The Sea could be a metaphor for love; the Sea like love draws you in, gives you highs and lows, and then either you sail off into the sunset happily together or you part ways (in one way or another). The last two lines are what makes me question whether "thee" is an actual person or not. The speaker says "Might I but moor-tonight-/In thee!," which leads us back to, who is thee? In this stanza, "thee" can be referring to Eden, the Sea, or a person. "Moor" means to secure (a ship, boat, etc.) in a particular place, as by cables and anchors or by lines; given that definition Eden and the Sea are obvious candidates for who "thee" is, because you can anchor a ship in the Sea or in a port in Eden. However, if you take a less literal approach to this definition, she could be saying that she wishes that she could be secured, tethered, or perhaps married to her beloved, so that no one could ever take away their "Wild nights" again.


Dickinson, Emily. "269 (249)." The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 5th ed. Ed. Margaret Ferguson. New York: Norton, 2005. 722.