Monday, May 2, 2011

Emily Dickenson's Tell All the Truth

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

This is a very short poem, but it states quite succinctly the sort of ideas we have been discussing in class. Dickenson says one should tell all the truth, but tell it slant. So she's saying that a person can actually tell the "truth" while not exactly telling the entire facts. She goes on to say why it's okay to do that--that the truth can be too bright a surprise for people, that the truth must be eased into kindly and gently or else it would overwhelm us all. I like how she compares it to explaining lightning to children. That's something that could easily frighten a child a lot, much like the truth can frighten any one of us. But then she says it "dazzles", and I love that too--the truth as something that can enlighten us, impress us, inspire us. Dickenson knows that's something we have to come to gradually. I like this take on why the truth can be slanted; for such a short poem it has quite a message, even though it's presented subtly.

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