32 Emily Dickinson Quotes About Life, Death & Immortality

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Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was the middle child of Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson.

Dickinson spent her youth baking, gardening, participating in church activities, reading, learning to sing and play the piano, and writing letters. She also attended school, even going away from home for one year to attend Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.

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As a young person, she wrote, “I am growing handsome very fast indeed! I expect I shall be the belle of Amherst when I reach my 17th year. I don’t doubt that I will have crowds of admirers at that age.” This quote was used by playwright William Luce when he wrote “The Belle of Amherst” about Dickinson’s life.

Even though Dickinson predicted that she would become increasingly popular, she enjoyed a quiet life with female and male friends. She never married. Instead, her writing became more important to her as she matured into womanhood. During this time, the country was divided by the Civil War. 

Dickinson published poems anonymously and was known to share some poems in letters to friends. However, upon her death in 1886, Dickinson’s family found forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 handwritten poems. Her poems covered many themes and often used dash-like marks of various sizes and directions. 

The first volume of Dickinson’s work was published posthumously in 1890 – four years after the Belle of Amherst’s death.

We would like to highlight some of Dickinsons’ most famous lines in this blog. Perhaps you are a fan of her work or are looking for a quote or poem to use for your own future funeral or the service of a loved one.

Emily Dickinson Quotes About Death or Dying

Dickinson lost a young cousin to death when she was young. Her childhood home was also located near a cemetery, so the young poet probably thought a great deal about death and eternity.

In “Major Writers of America,” Northrop Frye wrote about Dickinson: “In a life so retired it was inevitable that the main events should be the death of friends, and Emily Dickinson became a prolific writer of notes of condolence.”

Here are some Dickinson quotes about death and dying.

1. “This is the Hour of Lead // Remembered, if outlived, // As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow // First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go.”

We appreciate Dickinson’s description of death.

2. “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died. // With Blue—uncertain stumbling Buzz // Between the light—and me // And then the Windows failed—and then // I could not see to see.”

Dickinson seemed to think a great deal about the moment of death.

3. “After great pain, a formal feeling comes— // The Nerves sit ceremonious like tombs.”

Dickinson gives us another description of death with this verse.

4. “Presentiment—is that long Shadow—on the Lawn— // Indicative that suns go down— // The Notice to the startled Grass // That Darkness—is about to pass.”

Presentiment is defined as “an intuitive feeling over foreboding.”

5. “Endow the Living—with the Tears— // You squander on the Dead.”

This may not be an appropriate sentiment to share at a funeral.

6. “The Bustle in a House // The Morning after Death // Is solemnest of industries // Enacted upon Earth— // The Sweeping up the Heart // And putting Love away // We shall not want to use again // Until Eternity.”

This poem about grief describes the pain that follows death. 

7. “A Coffin—is a small domain, // Yet able to contain // A Citizen of Paradise // In it diminished Plane.”

This poem continues with two additional stanzas.

Emily Dickinson Quotes About Life and Love

Dickinson’s poetry covered many subjects, but she also uses poetry to ask questions about life. These quotes show the range of Dickinson’s themes.

8. “I shall know why, when Time is over, // And I have ceased to wonder why; // Christ will explain each separate anguish // In the fair schoolroom of the sky.”

This poem concludes that she hopes to some day “forget the drop of Anguish that scalds me now.”

9. “To wait an Hour—is long— // If Love be just beyond— // To wait Eternity—is short— // If Love reward the end—”

This is the complete poem.

10. “That Love is all there is, // Is all we know of Love.”

This thought is often repeated by songwriters.

11. “Luck is not chance— // It’s Toil— // Fortune’s expensive smile // Is earned—”

Dickinson wrote these words in about 1875.

12. “If all the griefs I am to have // Would only come today, // I am so happy I believe // They’d laugh and run away!”

There aren’t any dashes or odd capital letters in this passage written by Dickinson.

13. “If I can stop one Heart from breaking // I shall not live in vain. // If I can ease one Life the Aching // Or cool one Pain // Or help one fainting Robin // Unto his Nest again // I shall not live in Vain.”

We love this message from Dickinson on having a life worth living. 

14. “Success is counted sweetest // By those who ne’er succeed.”

Perhaps this quote rings true for you. Do you desire the things you can’t have?

15. “Surgeons must be very careful // When they take the knife! // Underneath their fine incisions // Stirs the culprit—Life!”

Perhaps you should share this quote about life with your friends who are doctors.

16. “Much Madness is divinest Sense— // To a discerning Eye— // Much Sense—the starkest Madness.”

In a letter, Dickinson wrote to her brother: “What makes a few of us so different from others? It’s a question I often ask myself.”

17. “The first Day’s Night had come— // And grateful that a thin // So terrible—had been endured— // I told my Soul to sing.”

One wonders what happened to Dickinson to cause her so much pain – pain that she felt required to hide from others.

18. “And Something’s odd—within— // That person that I was— // And this One—do we not feel the same— // Could it be Madness—this?”

Dickinson (or at least the speaker in her poem) seems to be questioning their sanity with these words.

19. “The soul selects her own Society— // Then—shuts the Door”

This might be good advice from Dickinson about choosing our friends with care.

20. “Will you tell me my fault, frankly as to yourself, for I had rather wince, than die. Men do not call the surgeon to commend the bone, but to set it, Sir.”

Dickinson wrote these words to T. W. Higginson in July 1862.

Emily Dickinson Quotes About Immortality

Dickinson was buried in West Cemetery in Amherst. Her grave is in the center of the property and is surrounded by an iron fence.

21. “Our journey had advanced; // Our feet were almost come // To that odd fork in Being’s road, // Eternity by term.”

Immortality and eternity are described as an “odd fork” in a road.

22. “Because I could not stop for Death, // He kindly stopped for me; // The carriage held but just ourselves // And Immortality.”

This poem appears in a lot of American literature anthologies.

23. “My life closed twice before its close; // It yet remains to see // If Immortality unveil // A third event to me, // So huge, so hopeless to conceive // As these that twice befell. // Parting is all we know of heaven // And all we need of hell.”

The heartbreak that follows an ended relationship seems to be the theme of this poem. This is sometimes used as a funeral poem

24. “Fame is a bee // It has a song— // It has a sting— // Ah, too, it has a wing.”

One wonders what Dickinson would have thought about her enduring fame.

25. “The Soul unto itself // Is an imperial friend— // Or the most agonizing Spy— // An Enemy—could send—”

Dickinson wrote about her faith in letters to friends.

26. “Truth—is as old as God— // His Twin identity // And will endure as long as He // A Co-Eternity—”

Even though Dickinson wrote a lot about her faith, she never officially joined the church.

27. “This is my letter to the world // That never wrote to me.”

Perhaps Dickinson realized that her poetry would be discovered and live on after her.

Emily Dickinson Quotes to Share at a Funeral or Memorial Service

Dickinson’s poetry and life story have entranced readers for decades. Academics have poured over her texts, looking for meaningful clues that uncover what it was like to be Emily Dickinson. 

Since Dickinson wrote a lot about death and immortality, her poems are often used at funerals. However, perhaps you wish to select a Dickinson poem with another theme for your loved one’s funeral. Here are some options.

28. “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers— // That perches in the soul— // And sings the tune without the words— // And never stops—at all.”

This is one of Dickinson’s most popular poems. If your loved one was known for their positivity and cheerfulness, consider using this quote at their funeral.

29. “Pain—has an Element of Blank— // It cannot recollect // When it begun—or if there were // A time when it was not.”

This quote about pain makes one wonder about Dickinson’s personal experiences with the subject.

30. “The dearest ones of time, the strongest friends of the soul—BOOKS.”

Consider this quote for the funeral of a reader. 

31. “There is no Frigate like a Book // To take us Lands away // Nor any Coursers like a Page // Of prancing Poetry.”

Here’s another quote for the funeral of a lover of books.

32. “Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand // When we with Daisies lie— // That Commerce will continue— // And Trades as briskly fly—”

Perhaps consider this quote for the funeral of someone who worked in finance.

Dickinson Was a Master of the Language of Loss

The more you read of Dickinson, the more you will discover that she felt deeply about many subjects. She may have lived a quiet life, but she did not have a quiet existence. Perhaps that is why her poetry appeals to so many.

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