Study Guide

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun – Stanza III

By Emily Dickinson

Stanza III

Lines 9-12

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through –

  • This stanza describes the speaker smiling.
  • One way to paraphrase this is, "And if I smile, it’s like an uptight hot-head had actually loosened up a bit."
  • The smile is cordial, and shines upon the Valley, but it’s like a "Vesuvian face" had smiled.
  • ("Vesuvian" references Mount Vesuvius, a volcano in Italy. Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. and buried the city of Pompeii and many of its inhabitants. Not a pretty picture. To say someone is Vesuvian is to say that they’re prone to explosive anger.)
  • So, the speaker smiling is like a Vesuvian face. In other words, we have the image of a person with anger-management problems, who cools down a bit and "let its pleasure through."