There’s a certain Slant of Light

There’s a certain Slant of Light,

Winter Afternoons —    The season is linked with death – pathetic fallacy.

That oppresses like the Heft     Using the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Heft’ (still used in the adjectival form ‘hefty’) gives a permanence to the heaviness.  The simile uses our knowledge of the overbearing weight of cathedral music to present the oppressive nature of that ‘certain slant of light’.  Reference Transcendentalism.

Of Cathedral Tunes —  The use of ‘Tunes’ is humorously derogative, particularly in the light of ‘heft’.

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —    the alliteration and capitalisation demonstrate the personal suffering which, although ironically leaving no visible scar, leads to a personal discovery of ‘Meanings’.

We can find no scar,

But internal difference,

Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —    The absolute negative of ‘none’ is categoric

‘Tis the Seal of Despair —    This metaphor conjures the slant of light as a wax imprint that closes down all alternative meanings of life.

An imperial affliction    This dominance by one powerful perspective is a wholly unwelcome illness.

Sent us of the Air —      Note the ‘of’ conveys sense of the slant of light being literally part of the air.  But there is also the metaphorical meaning that it is ‘sent’ by God.

When it comes, the Landscape listens —   ‘It’, still being the slant of light

Shadows — hold their breath —    The immobilising personification of shadows on one hand gives them life but on the other, ironically takes away the means of sustaining it. The Slant of light stops movement. 

When it goes, ’tis like the Distance   The loss of the slant of light is akin to meeting death.  The distance is that of eternity.   Note the enormity of meaning is prefaced by the casual ellipsis ”tis’. 

On the look of Death —


My commentary should help you to:

    • Establish Dickinson’s meaning;
    • Consider particular features for close analysis;
    • Formulate a sustained critical response;
    • Develop and understanding of the significance of links between the poems as well as with other writings.    

For the recurring language, form and structural features which characterise Emily Dickinson’s poetry, please see my Dickinson main page.


Please go to the Dickinson tab for the  drop-down menu on her poems A-Z or click on the following:

Poems A-G

Poems H-J

Poems K-Z


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