1. “Much Madness”
This short poem denotes the juxtaposing idea that madness can actually be perceived as a profound, truest kind of sanity, in the lines “Much madness is divinest sense,” because for one to be aware of the fact that one is insane, one has to be in full possession of his senses to grasp this notion. In other words, to be insane and know it is to hold a firm grasp on one’s reason. But still, Dickinson is referring to it as “sense” exactly because it is not defined by reason, but what the majority of people consider to be reason. To be different and to have firm opinions and beliefs clashing with those of the majority is to be considered insane. Dickinson lived in willing seclusion almost her entire life and for this, she was often deemed insane and not in full possession of her senses. By stating that the “madness” she exudes is the divinest sense, she is fortifying her decision not to live like the majority of people, but to make her own choices, even if it were choices of utter retraction from society, which led her to write extraordinarily prolifically. The danger she observes for those who refuse to adhere to the beliefs and opinions of the majority is the loss of freedom: “you’re straightaway dangerous and handled with a chain.” Thus, if an individual so much as hesitates in his concordance with the majority, he is deemed a threat to the conformity of society, which does not look leniently upon free-thinking individuals who endeavor to find their own truth, instead of being fed one by the majority. In addition, by saying that one is believed to be a danger straightaway shows an utter lack of good judgment on the part of the scrutinizing majority, who in one perfunctory reaction violently take away the person’s liberty to think and feel freely by labeling him mad.
In this definition poem, Dickinson delicately uses the metaphor of a shadow to enunciate a presentiment. The “long shadow on the lawn/ indicative that suns go down” potently symbolizes the notion of imminent death, as in the imagery of one’s life ending when the sun goes down. She states that the grass is startled and that darkness will soon enshroud the whole lawn, again denoting the idea of something dangerous and deadly that is coming this way. The grass is symbolic of humanity that shivers at the thought of death, because no one is immune to its powers, eventually every single human being closes his eyes forever and spends eternity in darkness. Still, she uses the plural “suns” instead of singular, again denoting that the sun goes down for every individual independently and that this impending evil always hangs above the heads of mortals like the sword of Damocles, waiting to fall every minute. The entire poem is indicative of a full life, happy life, because of the sun, yet for everyone, darkness must come.
3. “To Make a Prairie”
Dickinson’s entire poetry collection speaks of the spiritual level of being and her poem “To Make a Prairie” specifically denotes the power of the mind and what few essentials it needs to create the most pleasant state of reverie. She parallels her mind with a prairie, containing fertile soil, and states how little it is necessary for it to function: “a clover and one bee.” She continues with the same statement, yet slightly altering it: “one clover, and a bee,” changing the position of the determiners and the article, stating that her mind may already be in possession of one of the two items, a small starting point and a fertilizer. It is also possible to connect the clover with fertility, reminiscent of the four-leaf clover, a widely known symbol of good luck, and the bee to hard work and honey.
Thus, the idea emerging from this symbolism is about having a rich and fulfilling life: one starts with a dream, a “revery” and takes it one step at a time, slowly and determinedly, pollinating it to make it grow. Dickinson refers to the idea that all great success stories started with a “revery,” a daydream which was turned into reality by effort. She finalizes the poem with “The revery alone will do/ If bees are few,” meaning that for some people, the mere possession of a dream is enough, that an elevated mind with the powers of reverie has power of limitless abilities.
4. “Wild Nights”
While this poem most certainly is abundant with unrestrained sexual passion and rupture, the comment of Dickinson’s mentor only serves as acute portrayal of the narrowness of their times. Emily Dickinson was regarded as the Virgin Recluse, which is why such a poem came as an even bigger shock to her mentor who feared that the readers might find the poem inappropriate, while his own perception of the poem as such, due to the fact that he is having doubts about publishing it, shows his own hypocrisy. The poem is laden with passionate imagery of a sexual encounter, which is only hypothetical. Dickinson desires these wild nights and uses the old-fashioned term “luxury” in the sense of an almost lascivious gratification of one’s appetite.
She continues that if the two of them were together, her heart would be in port, symbolizing a safe harbor, where no danger can befall them. They would have no need for the compass and the chart, the instruments of logic and reason, because their own love would steer them on the sea, which is symbolic of grand passion. She finalizes the poem with the wish to “moor/ To-night in Thee,” which might serve as an indicator that the speaker is male, anchoring in a woman. The poem most certainly possesses numerous hints of a sexual nature, something that would definitely shock her readers. Yet, the imagery is fervently arduous and loving, transcending the idea of a mere sexual encounter, and transforming their passionate rendezvous into a union of two souls.