Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not what We did, shall be the test

Not what We did, shall be the test
When Act and Will are done
But what Our Lord infers We would
Had We diviner been--
(F 972)

This poem displays a great deal of mistrust in religion and deity. Much of it can, arguably, stem from Dickinson's frustrations with especially the Calvinists and earlier Puritan influences. This speaker clearly has issues with the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" type of teachings-- the idea that God's eagle eye is ever on the search to spot the slightest slip up and thunder down gloom and doom and despair. There is a strong sense that the speaker feels one can never measure up to God's expectations. He or she believes each person will be held to an impossible standard, namely what they could have achieved if they had been more pious.

All the good and even selfless acts of a lifetime will be, this speaker seems to believe, wiped out in an instant. It is as though he or she sees the scales as hopelessly weighted in such a way that no one can win. Ultimately this speaker feels that goodness must equal perfection, and as perfection is unattainable, God can never be pleased. It is a highly cynical view and could very well reflect Dickinson's personal feelings. At the very least, if this poem is her commentary on the Christian religion and her struggles with it, I feel like I have to give her at least credit for her sheer honesty. She was very frank about her feelings regarding faith and religion, and her struggle was open in her poetry at least.

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