I measure every Grief I meet
Death Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
And whether—could They choose between—
It would not be—to die— (11-12)
Yikes. This mention of suicide comes right out of left field, don't you think? It's also a bit ambiguous as to whether the speaker is referring only to the possibility of other people committing suicide, or if she is also implicating herself here. That tension makes these lines extremely uncomfortable for us readers.
Enlightened to a larger Pain—
In contrast with the Love— (23-24)
Radical. Here, our speaker suggests the possibility that someone could be so sad that this sadness could carry on into the Christian afterlife, despite receiving God's "Love." This would have been a radical assumption in nineteenth-century Protestant New England, but Dickinson was a fan of shaking things up—what can we say?
Death—is but one—and comes but once—
And only nails the eyes— (27-28)
While in some of her most famous poems (see "I Heard A Fly Buzz") death is pretty major, in this poem, death is… not such a big deal. Death is one reason someone might feel sad, but it is not the only reason. The speaker is kind of democratic in how she views suffering. It's kind of like when poet Gertrude Stein says, "A rose is a rose is a rose." Think of Dickinson as saying, in this poem, "A grief is a grief is a grief." Ultimately she's more concerned with the feeling than the cause.