Emily Dickinson is an American poet who wrote during the Romantic Era of American Literature. She lived in Amherst, Massachusetts for her entire life, and seldom left her family’s homestead. She struggled at times with depression, and struggled with the deaths of many close friends, including the family’s hired help. Her poems were largely published posthumously by her sister, Lavinia; Dickinson’s work was given little recognition during her lifetime, but has gained fame and accolades since then.
This poem is a lyrical piece that has a set structure and rhyme scheme. It is broken into two quatrains, with a rhyme scheme of ABCB DEFE. The first line contains 8 syllables, while the second line contains 6 – this pattern of offsetting lines continues throughout the poem.
This poem, similar to many other of Dickinson’s poems, contains heavy usage of dashes for punctuation. The dash itself is intended to indicate either a sharp interruption of the thought, or other abrupt endings. In prose, it is not typically used to end a statement or clause, but Dickinson uses them for effect throughout her writing.
The author begins with the title line of the poem. This line introduces two questions from the reader: what is "it", and who is she bringing it to? It is generally accepted that the thing she is bringing is herself; she is essentially stating that she is all that she has to give. However, it is not clear yet who she is bringing this too.
Dickinson continues on to list the elements that she is bringing along with herself. She mentions that she is bringing her hear. In literature, the heart tends to symbolise passion or desire, indicating that she is giving up control of her passion or desires. This metaphorical relinquishing of control is one of the most powerful images that has been used in literature
Her further addition of "fields" and "meadows" to the list is an indication of not only the author, but the time period. She is offering to give these elements of nature along with herself. During the Romantic Era, the prevailing literary philosophy was the ideal of nature being the ultimate source of beauty. This was also tied into the spiritual realm with nature being used to reflect God’s personality and image, the logic being that if all good things come from God and are a reflection of his handiwork, the artist is thus reflected in his work. In this context, Dickinson appears to be speaking to God, offering her devotion, as well as control over the fields and meadows.
At this point, the author switches from offering everything to God, to insisting that he count and identify that which she has given Him. This section is often seen as an allusion to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In this parable, a rich land owner gives three servants different amounts of money, and tells them to be responsible with it so that he may get it back when he returns from a trip. Ultimately, two of the servants give back the money with interest, thus receiving praise and increased responsibility from the owner; the third gave it back without interest, earning the owners disdain. Coupled with the understanding of the allusion, it appears that Dickinson is saying to God that she has been responsible with what He has given her.
Dickinson concludes her poem by reiterating what she has given to God, as well as adding the "Bees" to the list. It is interesting that all of the items she lists, outside of herself and her heart, would be things that a farmer would make money off of. This pastoral theme goes along with the Romantic ideals of the period.
The main theme of this poem is Dickinson’s belief that she has been responsible with what was given to her by God. This theme comes out clearly throughout the short poem. Her reference to the natural landscape around her is her pointing out that what God has created and given to her, specifically the nature around her, she has taken care of. It is interesting that as well as being a poet, Dickinson was an avid horticulturalist; this understanding of her life emphasizes again her beliefs as the tie to the theme.
Dickinson is have a discussion with God. She is offering herself and her heart to Him, indicating devotion. She also offers the fields and meadows around her, indicating that though He created them, she saw herself as responsible for them. She offers them to be "counted", or for God to judge her investment in them. She concludes by again reiterating what she has to offer, and adding the insects of the fields as well.