As Imperceptibly As Grief

Quote and explanation, including pointers on context and structure.

Structure

Fragmented - created by the dashes in the poem and frequent enjambments

1. The poem is very short (only 16 lines in total) - this reflects either the brevity of summer (a metaphor for the speaker's happiness) or how quickly the transition seems to occur - illustrating the idea of an 'imperceptible' change

2. The dashes in the poem could link to the poet's context - Dickinson preferred to work at nighttime in the silence where she could be left undisturbed, and she frequently re-drafted her work. The poem is presented almost like a draft or even a stream of consciousness

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'As Imperceptibly As Grief the Summer Lapsed Away'

'As imperceptibly as grief the summer lapsed away' = simile

1. The adverb 'imperceptibly' illustrated how unnoticeable the transition from summer to autumn is, and therefore how time seems to pass quickly

2. When linked with grief, this idea reflects how grief comes in waves, and people with a depressive state of mind will experience good and bad days - this links to context, as Dickinson was known to have been reclusive and she frequently isolated herself

3. Juxtaposition - 'summer' contrasts with 'grief', as it has positive connotation of warmth, hope and happiness, whereas grief is negative, linked with ideas like emotional trauma, sadness and loss

4. Summer 'lapsed away' in a similar way as Dickinson would retreat indoors. She would also not have noticed the transition of seasons as she spent most of her life indoors

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'Too Imperceptible (...) to Seem Like Perfidy'

Resigned acceptance that the transition of seasons is a natural process - despite not liking the change, the speaker understands that the action is not deliberately done (it cannot be described as 'perfidy' which is an intentional action)

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'A Quietness Distilled as Twilight Long Begun'

1. Describing the 'quietness' as 'distilled' gives it positive connotations like purified water, and intensifies the purity of the silence. This could also reflect the speaker's preference to be left alone without distractions in order to write her poetry

2. The reference to 'twilight' shows the passing of time, as it has 'long begun' (taken place for an extended amount of time already) - long nights and short days are typical characteristics of winter, and in autumn the nights begin to draw in

3. Context - Dickinson often stayed up at night to do her poetry and re-draft (perfect) her work. Darkness could also relfect her depression enveloping her (taking over, just as the nights are taking over the days)

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The Personification of 'Nature'

Dickinson personifies 'Nature' and gives it female qualities using the pronoun 'herself' in order to project her own emotions and feelings onto it

The poet even appears to relate to nature's apparent loneliness - 'nature spending with herself sequestered afternoon'. Dickinson is isolated, and 'sequestered' demonstrates that nature is the same. Perhaps the poet uses this as an excuse to feel that way and to spend all of that time alone

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'The Morning Foreign Shone'

1. Reflects Dickinson's reclusive nature - she is comfortable in the darkness, and so daylight is strange to her. This is a good contextual link because she would often stay awake at night to make use of the quiet time and write, so her days would be spent resting and sleeping

2. Passing of time - the nights draw in as winter approaches (remember winter often represents death, decay and depression in literature) and so the idea of morning daylight would be alien

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'Courteous Yet Harrowing Grace'

1. Juxtaposition - opposite connotations of 'courteous' and 'harrowing' despite the fact that they describe the same subject.

2. 'Courteous' implies that the speaker is thankful for the visit (it was a polite gesture that has been appreciated)

3. 'Harrowing' is negative (emptiness) and suggests that the speaker feels socially exhausted following the interaction with other people. The speaker could also be anticipating the loneliness which will ensue, so she is sad that the happiness will only temporary

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'As Guest that Would be Gone'

Two Interpretations:

1. The guest is eager to leave, perhaps because of the speaker's depressive state of mind and lack of willingness to participate in conversation

2. The speaker is aware of the inevitablity of the visit coming to an end - her happiness of being in company is only temporary, and the knowledge of this means that she cannot properly appreciate the time

Contextual link - Dickinson often had visitors yet they did not always bring about happiness for her, and sometimes she even refused to greet them

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'Our Summer Made her Light Escape into the Beautif

This line once again refers more directly to the transition of seasons

  • Possessive pronoun 'our' shos the speaker's personal relationship with the Summer, which can link to the hint of jealousy at the easy ('light') disappearance of happiness/summer
  • The speaker appears jealous of the summer's 'light escape' (easy) - the adjective 'light' either implies that the summer was careless or that the transition was imperceptible 
  • 'The Beautiful' has positive connotations and could refer to heaven or a place of paradise. This could be wherever the summer goes
  • The speaker clearly does not perceive her current surroundings as beautiful or anything to admire
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