We don't know about you, but Shmoop measures every grief we meet in tablespoons. Just sayin'.
But Dickinson? We bet she measured in bushels… and pecks. Well, actually, according to this poem, she used her "narrow, probing, Eyes." Yeah, that sounds more effective. Whatever the case may be, though, we can't help but wonder: can grief even be measured in the first place?
In Dickinson's 561st poem, "I measure every Grief I meet," it absolutely can. She gives grief tangible qualities in order to figure out its nature—in her and in others. Why? Well it seems our speaker is a bit grieved herself, and is looking for some comfort.
She finds it in the knowledge that everyone—yep, everyone—suffers, and more often then not, their suffering might look a lot like her own. In this poem, Dickinson gives us a rare moment of reaching out to the world outside and the people in it. The shut-in we've all come to know and love is reaching out here, making it well worth the read.
She leads a lonely life, our speaker. And hey, we've all been there. Whether you're bummed about you're favorite team choking in the World Series, or devastated by the death of a loved one, grief is a solitary emotion.
And given the fact that Emily Dickinson was one solitary lady, it's strange that there are so many other people in this poem about her grief. Just what are they doing here? Why is this lonely lady suddenly comfortable blabbing about "Some Thousands"?
Well think about it this way: we all compare ourselves to others, right? Sometimes that's a very bad idea. It can lead to bad mojo like jealousy, anger, and even more grief. But sometimes, putting your life next to someone else's and seeing how you stack up can actually be the right call.
See, in comparing her sadness to that of other people, the speaker finds an odd sense of comfort. She feels less alone in the world, and she creates a kind of community of grieving people. If it's true that "misery loves company," maybe that's because another person's misery can actually make us feel connected to someone else, which in turn can make us feel less… miserable.
Famous poets always get their day in the sun on this site.
For all things Dickinson, take a dive into her life in her very own museum.
Every Emily Poem Under the Sun
Read 'em and weep.
He's Ready for His Close-Up
Because you didn't know how much you needed to hear this poem from an old guy in an aloha shirt until now.
Rare Dickinson Photo
Supposedly one of only two known Dickinson photographs, this picture was discovered in 2000…on eBay.
A drawing of Emily Dickinson at age nine, sporting a rather mod haircut.
It's morbid, sure, but we have a feeling Em would approve.
A Handwritten Version of "There came a day at Summer's full"
Gorgeous penmanship, don't you think?
And no, that's not a body part. Here's what Dickinson's bound groups of poems (fascicles) look like. She used to make these herself, in an early form of self-publishing.