Permalink for this paragraph 0 Since coming to college and learning how to really pick apart a poem and try to interpret it for myself I have come to appreciate Emily Dickinson as an author much more. I love how challenging and insightful her poetry is, so when I came across “Through the Dark Sod” in the Reader-Response chapter of Texts and Contexts I was immediately drawn to this poem and with it I wanted to give the newly learned criticism a shot.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 The title is perplexing because my understanding of sod is that they are the giant rolls of grass that people pay good money for to revitalize their lawns. So in my head I pictured someone walking bare-foot across an expensive lawn. The word “through” signifies movement, so right away I see the poem as a personal journey for someone. The word “Dark” brings forth associations of fear and mystery. I have to read the poem to understand.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 When I read through the poem, the opening word to the second stanza, “Afterward”—seems to mean after we die and the journey on earth (or “sod”) has ended. Also the Emily Dickinson Lexicon website translated “Ecstasy” to have multiple meanings, including, “separation of the body and the spirit” which leads me to further believe the poem is describing an afterlife. The word “Dell” literally means a type of valley, maybe the intended meaning here is a grave. The first time I read the second stanza it made me sad because the poem sent me a depressing message that once we die we simply become “all forgotten”. This interpretation makes all of our efforts seem futile. But after a few readings I came to understand that the “white” “Lily” goes through life with “no fear” and then when she dies she forgets about her “Mold-life”, or mortal existence on earth.
Permalink for this paragraph 0 This new interpretation of the poem uplifted me because I have no idea what I am going to do with my life when I leave college—I am not like the Lily with the “white foot” of innocence and a sense of calm naivety—sometimes I am very frightened that college could become a wasted personal investment. When people discover my major, the easiest thing to do is tell a joke to wipe the uneasy look off of their faces; “If you don’t plan on teaching, what are you gonna do with that degree?” But with this understanding of the Dickinson poem, it is comforting to know that eventually what I do with my life will not ultimately matter because I will not even remember my time on earth. I suppose the only thing I have to do is have the Lily’s “Faith” and I will not have to have “trepidation” about life. This adds a religious undertone to the poem, and no matter how frustrating religion can be for all of us, the religious concept of an afterlife is comforting.