Ode to Emily Dickinson

Lately I have toyed with the idea of writing an ode to my favorite poet of all time, Miss Emily Dickinson.    A quick study of odes found two poets that really stand out to me. Keats and Shelley.  Keats mastery of assonance is simply not attainable, so here I focus on Shelley’s style that he used for at least two different odes that I know of.   The ode inspiring my own attempt below was his “Ode to West Wind,” (Click here to see Shelley’s Poem) and it was written in terza rima, rhyming scheme a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-e-d, e-f-e, f-g-f, g-g.



Ode to Emily Dickinson

Oh dearest Emily, thou crafty pen aflare,
thine eyes once fell on nature’s things,
whose tamed songs you sang aware.

And in this world of hushed flusterings
where strife once owned thy soul
we’re left to dredge meanderings

to find thy rhyme of rhythm bold.
Whence thy soul passed thru those golden gates,
with lost loves safely a’stowed,

and earthly devils cracked thy crates,
and spil’t thy lifetime of prose,
did you think them once confederates?

Or old friends in beggars clothes?
That they should traipse your savored scripts
and in your death did’st fame arose.

My Emily, sleep thou safe in crypts,
Eternally rest thy tempest soul
Allow promises from my sparing lips:

That ever most dear my heart shall hold,
Thy words closer than any love e’er told…



Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts,  and lived in the family home all of her life until she died at age 55 in 1886.  Having spent her younger years at different learning institutes where she met and became friends with other poets and writers, she moved back to her family home and slowly became reclusive, communicating mostly by letter with her dear friends.  Except for a younger sister, most of her family and friends passed away early in her life, leaving her sad and somewhat fixated on death.  But I don’t think her poems are dark, just incredibly sensitive and emotional.  She is my favorite poet who has ever lived.  While alive she was able to publish only a handful of her poems, which were edited heavily by the publishers.  Emily’s style was way before it’s time, and her poetry did not follow the normal standards of poetry in her day.  So basically she was shunned in the field of literature, which is what irritates me about those who would attempt to define what poetry should or should not be.  Emily was a prolific poet, anyone who knew her knew this about her.  But after her death, everyone was surprised when two of her acquaintances found nearly 1800 poems stashed away in her home.   The two published her poetry almost immediately, however they edited it heavily again to meet the poetic standards of the day, or they thought they were.  In 1955 a historian Thomas Johnson published what what he believed to be a complete collection of her unedited poems, but no one really knows that for sure.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born fairly aristocratic in England in 1792 and died at age 29 in 1822.   His fame was due in large part, (I believe) to his close friendship with fellow poets John Keats and Lord Byron.  Shelley was a bit of a non-conformist as a young man, and even was expelled from college for his views.  He married and his wife became pregnant, at which time he abandoned her and actually met and moved in with lover Mary Godwin, who later became his wife Mary Shelley.  You might recognize her genius name as the author of “Frankenstein.”   At some point his first wife was found dead, floating in a river, I think, which freed him to wed Mary.  I think Percy was a bit of a social blundering idiot, even Mark Twain derided him publicly for abandoning his wife.  I am of the same mind.  I also think that he took his position in the literary world for granted, approaching it in a non-chalant way as if it was a natural order of things.  Percy was an incredibly talented poet.  But his life as a human is just sad to me. 

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

© 2011 John Richter


About johnallenrichter

I am an aspiring Poet and adorer of life, a conqueror of nothing. However I am a champion curator of truth and friendship and hold both of those things most dearly to my heart. Welcome to my mind's eye. I hope you will enjoy what you may find and please know that you have a friend here. View all posts by johnallenrichter

24 responses to “Ode to Emily Dickinson

  • kaykuala

    John, Great for walking us through to known poets. Your terza rima is just wonderful!


  • liv2write2day

    John, I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this post…the ode to Emily (whose life and poetry entrances me, too) and the style of Shelley. I think your mastery of his form/style is so good. My disclaimer is that I am not skilled enough to critique this aspect of poetry…I only know what I like. Thank you so much for participating and I’m so glad the prompt inspired you create this. Victoria

  • Ravenblack

    Awesome post. Very good ode and dedication. The notes after the poem makes me want to go revisit some Emily Dickinson poems. I’m not familiar with Shelly though, so that’s another one I’m putting down on my list too. 🙂

  • brian

    nice….really enjoyed your ode…the rhyme of rhythm…like me some shelley as well…just started reading percy about 6 months ago…i do think i need to go read some emily as i have read very little…

  • manicddaily

    Hi John! Such a nice idea–to write an ode to Emily in the style of Percy! They are so different as people, though I’ve a bit of a softer spot for Shelley than you do. (He was awfully young when he died,so hard to know what he might have reformed into.) At any rate, I loved both influences on your work!

  • manicddaily

    PS – also admiring of your doing something completely new. I’ve been just a bit overwhelmed at work, etc., and at night!

  • claudia

    what a beautiful ode to a remarkable woman john..i like your voice in this..and shame on me but don’t know Shelley neither percy..have to check them out…love the quote..

  • jenneandrews

    this arrows its way right through me, John. An erudite and loving tribute, very beautiful and tender:

    I love these lines:

    Whence thy soul passed thru those golden gates,
    with lost loves safely a’stowed,

    and earthly devils cracked thy crates,

    and spil’t thy lifetime of prose,
    did you think them once confederates?

    post-mortem fame is its own kind of sadness, and to think that her words were subjected to editing…

    I must admit in trying to revive a career I abandoned as a young poet publishing a great deal, having fled for many years in a crisis of confidence, I find the explosion of good work and good poets out there quite daunting. Last year i sent out ten batches of poems with one acceptance and just sent a new bundle out– to me it is so wonderful to connect with others via our blogs who have faith in our work– thanks for being there for me, John– and bravo to you for condemning Shelley’s philandering. These lines brought me to tears:

    My Emily, sleep thou safe in crypts,
    Eternally rest thy tempest soul
    Allow promises from my sparing lips:

    That ever most dear my heart shall hold,
    Thy words closer than any love e’er told


  • bkmackenzie

    Well you picked my favorite…Emily..how unique truly deserves an ode to her legacy…thank you..bkm

  • stillight

    Great ode to Emily! Am also somewhat of a fan of her work and her observations of nature, I am extremely envious of. Speaking of odes though, have you ever read Billy Collins ode to Emily? If not, then I would highly recommend it, but beware, I have no doubt it would make Emily blush.

  • SuzyQ

    I too love the starkly wrought stanzas of Emily Dickinson.
    Your poem was so beautifully constructed.

    “And in this world of hushed flusterings
    where strife once owned thy soul
    we’re left to dredge meanderings”

    Such lightness of touch, such depth of meaning.
    Very Emily 🙂

  • David King

    I liked this very much. The strong rhythms and the rhymes and near rhymes suit it very well, as does the vocabulary. Excellently done.

  • Mary

    John, I am very impressed with your ode. I’ve never tried the form. Brave one, you! Your write-up on Emily Dickinson was interesting. I had not realized that her poems had been so heavily edited by others. How dare they have done that! I do hope that the 1955 version DOES include her unedited words. The last two stanzas of your poem are ‘gems.’

  • zumpoems

    Such a nice meld of early 19th century and late 20th century sensitivity. My favorite poet is Emily Dickenson. She was so bold and original. She could be very direct but very metaphoric. I can’t think of a better poet. I guess I place Wallace Stevens pretty high up there, but Emily’s my favorite.

    You have done such a fine job with this. Always a pleasure to visit and enjoy your craft.

  • wolfsrosebud

    I think she’d be faltered… did like the flow to your lines

  • hobgoblin2011

    John this is a tremendous tribute. She’d be very proud- beautifully crafted- I loved it, thanks for the read

  • tinkwelborn

    John, Emily would’ve fallen in love with you.
    this poem is great.
    love the excellent rhyme and rhythm.
    don’t know how long you worked this, but it came out great.
    Beautiful paean. bravo.
    thanks for creating and sharing.

  • Mark Kerstetter

    Your love for Dickinson shines. Not that Shelley is easy to do, but I would not want to fall into the trap of seeming to parody Dickinson (even if I was happy to parody Plath). Her diction is so singular, and her dashes so peculiar that a proper, respectful “imitation” would be quite a thing to pull off. You’ve written a lovely tribute.

  • willowdot21

    Hello John I hope you do not mind me dropping by but your response on zumpoems took my interest, I arrived here and found this gem.. an ode to Emily Dickinson in the style of Shelley has taken me by surprise again it is brilliant. I hope you do not mind if I hang around a while and have a nose around! Be well and happy and power to your Pen!

  • Melanie Jan Bishop

    JAR, this is beautiful. Your words are so moving. I think Miss Emily would have loved them.


  • the word bar

    This was absolutely wonderful.. from your amazing poem to all of the historical facts.. I feel like I just had tea with Miss Emily..

    This was a real treat for me this Sunday evening:-)

  • Ruth

    What a great idea to write a Shelley-style ode to Emily Dickinson – and have done it exceedingly well.

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