My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun

 Juliet Stevenson

  My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun by
  Emily Dickinson

  performed by Juliet Stevenson

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Transcript

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him -
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head -
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die –

Interpretation by Dzifa Benson

The first line of this poem is arresting, it pulls you in, but it also prepares you for anger, but what is Emily Dickinson angry about?  To some, the anger seems to be directed at the patriarchal society she lived and wrote in, the poem expressing her own brand of feminism, but to me this seems too easy an interpretation.  For me, the meaning is not that clear, it is a mysterious poem, but I like the mystery of it – I don’t need to know everything the poet intended and I try not to read too much into her life when deciphering the poem.  The first line, however, is quite shocking, in comparing her life to a loaded gun Dickinson suggests she could go off at any moment, she is ready to fire.  To me this speaks of something repressed, something that needs to come out, the gun is loaded, perhaps cocked and ready to fire, preparing you for the explosion of feeling in the rest of the poem.

Dzifa Benson is a poet and journalist who writes poems, short stories and radio plays as well as contributing articles for newspapers such as the Guardian.  She is a well established performer as well as an experienced workshop facilitator in London.