Study Guide

The Brain—is wider than the Sky— Quotes

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    The Brain—is wider than the Sky—

    For—put them side by side—

    The one the other will contain
 (1-3)

    The first stanza is a real testament to the speaker's belief in the power of the human brain. The brain can contain the sky? Wow. The sky seems pretty endless and uncontainable to us, especially if you count all of space along with that. Could the speaker be saying that the brain can imagine infinities beyond even the infinities we can see with the naked eye?

    The Brain is deeper than the sea—

    For—hold them—Blue to Blue—

    The one the other will absorb—
(5-7)

    Although modern science tells us that the sea is actually a whole lot smaller than the sky, the second stanza seems to be delving into the same idea of infinity that the first stanza did. The "Blue to Blue" thing even reminds us of the blue of the sky and connects the stanzas in our minds. This time the speaker seems to be talking about the brain's amazing ability to absorb information, which she believes has no limits at all.

    The Brain is just the weight of God—

    For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—

    And they will differ—if they do—

    As Syllable from Sound—(9-12)

    The final quatrain is probably the speaker's biggest declaration of the power of the brain. She compares it the G.O.D., who for many people represents the biggest infinity there is. The speaker goes so far as to say that the human brain and God are on the same level. And when she says that if they differ at all, it's "As Syllable from Sound," she seems to be making the distinction that the mind of humans is shaped by intellect, while God is raw, uncontrolled nature. To some this statement might seem pretty blasphemous, but to the speaker it's a declaration of the incredible intellectual powers of the human brain.

  • Man and the Natural World

    The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
 (1)

    The first line in the poem draws a line in the sand (or should we say the clouds?). The speaker establishes right from the beginning that she thinks the human brain has more scope than the sky. We wonder if this is a totally metaphorical comparison, or if she actually means to say that humanity as a whole is somehow superior to nature.

    The Brain is deeper than the sea—
(5)

    This line is a direct echo of the first line. Again the speaker is saying that the brain is somehow cooler than a major natural force. Again, we wonder if this is only metaphorical, or if there's a subtext that humans are better than nature in some way. Do nature lovers have a right to be offended by this poem, or are they just being too literal if they are?

    The Brain is just the weight of God—

    For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
    And they will differ—if they do—
    As Syllable from Sound— (9-12)

    The final quatrain compares the human brain to God himself, basically saying that we're on an even playing field with the big guy. When the speaker says that our brains and God might only differ "As Syllable from Sound" she seems to be claiming that the brain is shaped by intellect like a syllable, and God is a raw unshaped natural sound. What's interesting here is that this is the only quatrain where the speaker doesn't claim that the brain somehow exceeds a force of nature. Instead, she says they're pretty much equal.

  • Spirituality

    The Brain—is wider than the Sky—

    For—put them side by side—

    The one the other will contain

    With ease—and You—beside—

(1-4)

    The first stanza is downright bold if you're looking at it from a spiritual perspective. Ever since human beings started coming up with religions, the gods of the sky have always been really important. For example, according to ancient Greek mythology, Uranus and Zeus, two sky gods, were both the rulers of the universe at some point. And to say that the human mind can easily encompass the sky would have been grounds for a thunderbolt from above back in the day.

    The Brain is deeper than the sea—

    For—hold them—Blue to Blue—

    The one the other will absorb—

    As Sponges—Buckets—do—
(5-8)

    Let's zero in on this whole "Blue to Blue" comparison. We get that the sea is blue, but is a brain blue? We're guessing that by saying that the brain is "Blue," the speaker is trying to get across how "deep" it is. You know, like, it can think really deep thoughts on all things intellectual and spiritual as well. Notice that again the speaker is saying that the brain is superior to a natural force—the ocean—which many people, from ancient times to today, have felt has a spiritual power about it.

    The Brain is just the weight of God—

    For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—

    And they will differ—if they do—
    As Syllable from Sound—(9-12)

    The final quatrain probably has the most direct spiritual statements. It compares the human mind to God, so there you go. What's interesting is that it places our brains and God on the same level, saying that they only differ in the way that syllables do from sound. Could the speaker be trying to say that human beings are somehow the mouthpieces of God? Are the concepts that our intellects give words to an expression of the raw spiritual energy of the universe?