Can you distinguish which one?

“I Died for Beauty”
By Emily Dickinson

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth,—the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms.
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.


My reflections
I start with a question: Why did Dickinson started with death? Truth and Beauty could be 2 kinsmen or kinswomen sitting side by side on a park bench.
Or they could be jogging or walking on a path. One answer is Death is a mystery and Dickinson considered Truth and Beauty mysteries. And mystery is an eternal question which we can study and learn until death.

Mystery invites answers. Dickinson began the thread: “The two are one”. Truth and Beauty are symmetrical and mirror copy of each other. I have a link about Symmetry. link:
She did not define Truth or Beauty and left definition for the readers.

What is Beauty? For me, Beauty is purity and harmony. What is Truth?
Truth is integrity and permanence. Because they are mirror image or reflection of each we can interchange the anwers.

Beauty and Truth may not demand answers but clarification. Should I look for meanings? Should I look for examples?

If I look for meaning, Beauty and Truth lead me to God. God is permanence and perfection.

If I look for examples, Beauty and Truth lead me to Love. Love is purity and integrity.

I think Emily Dickinson asked parallel question: Would you die for love? Would you be true to yourself and follow your art (or heart) and not the herd?

Would you die for God? For your faith? Would you die for your country?
Would you die for your principles?

These are eternal questions, we can think and write about them “until the moss had reached our lips” we will not have exhausted the answers and they will remain undistinguishable from each other, their names both covered with moss.

Maybe Dickinson was also reminding us of time. Have you declared your love to someone you love? Have you thought about God? Sometimes time ends abruptly.

note: I’m taking an eCourse, Ten Premodern Poems by Women, through Stanford University

2 thoughts on “Can you distinguish which one?

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