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My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –


by Emily Dickinson

Stanza IV Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 13-16

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master's Head –
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

  • This stanza is very interesting and is rather like a riddle. It also reveals something about the nature of anger.
  • At night, when the speaker is in bed, she guards her "Master’s Head."
  • If we look at the first stanza again, "The Owner" mirrors this reference to "Master," so we can assume that "Master" could also be a reference to her anger.
  • This would be significant, then, because anger can often take over a person, as if it were his master.
  • In the third line, you are probably wondering (as we were) what the heck an "Eider-Duck’s Deep Pillow" is.
  • Well, for the most part, an Eider duck is a duck just like any other, but it is known for plucking its own feathers to make its nest (its "Deep Pillow"). This makes sense because many pillows back in the day were filled with feathers, hence the nest/pillow comparison, and because of the self-destructive nature of the Eider duck.
  • Self-destructive ducks? – this is crazy, you say. Well, Dickinson might be saying something about the nature of protecting one’s anger as an inherently self-destructive act. How many times has expressing rage gotten you into trouble?

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