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Cody, J. (1967). Emily Dickinson's Vesuvian Face. Am. Imago, 24(3):161-180.

(1967). American Imago, 24(3):161-180

Emily Dickinson's Vesuvian Face

John Cody, M.D.

In common with many other poets and artists, Emily Dickinson had profound insight into the complexities of psychological operations, including the shadowy movements of the unconscious. Frequently, she used her psychical discoveries as subject matter for verse.

Sometime, probably in her 33rd year, Emily Dickinson wrote a brilliant and baffling poem: “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—.” It is significant that, as dated by her editors, it was born in the retrospect of a creative outpouring that had reached its prodigious climax the previous year. Dickinson authorities have grappled with its meaning and one encounters widely divergent explications among them. However, under detailed psychoanalytic examination, the seemingly arbitrary images and the final knotty paradox yield delicately, and without forcing, to interpretation.

The complete poem, dated 1863, is as follows:

1.   My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—

In Corners—till a Day

The Owner passed—identified—

And carried Me away—

2.   And now We roam in Sovreign Woods—

And now We hunt the Doe—

And every time I speak for Him—

The Mountains straight reply—

3.   And

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