Fairer through Fading — as the Day by Emily Dickinson

Within ‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ Dickinson uses a complex combination of poetic diction and syntax that results in an image and emotion-rich landscape. She speaks on themes of life, death and memory. 


Summary of Fairer through Fading — as the Day

‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ by Emily Dickinson is a complex, beautiful poem that speaks on the value of things that have been lost. 

In the first lines, the speaker describes the setting sun and how as it goes down the daylight feels more valuable. When it was day, this wasn’t the case, but now as it’s losing its prominence in the sky, the speaker has a new fondness for it. There are a few dramatic moments as Dickinson’s word choice aggrandizes this particular moment and the sun flares up again “aggravat[ing]” the darkness. It does finally set and the day is gone. 

You can read the full poem here.


Poetic Techniques in Fairer through Fading— as the Day 

Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ by Emily Dickinson is a two stanza poem that’s separated into sets of four lines or quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of AABC DDEF. Dickinson makes use of alliteration, enjambment and repetition. The latter is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. For example, the word “Dark” appears in both stanzas. There is also a similarity to the ways the lines are structured with coinciding dashes and capitalized letters. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. This technique is used frequently throughout ‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’. For instance, with “Darkness dips” and “Half Her” and “Hindering—Haunting”. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. The most obvious example of this technique in action is the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza. 


Dickinson’s Dashes and Capitalization

Scholars are divided over what this intermittent punctuation could mean. But in this case, the dashes are easily read as moments in which the speaker was overwhelmed or thinking hard before proceeding. The pauses represent a desire to create drama and tension in the text. It is also a way for the reader, speaker, and even Dickinson herself, to gather thoughts together before moving on to the next line. 

One should also consider the use of capitalization in these lines. This is another technique that Dickinson is known for, and which causes confusion among students and scholars alike. There is no single definitive reason why Dickinson capitalized the words she did. Often, the words she chose were the most prominent of the lines, the ones that were the most evocative and meaningful. This appears to be the case in ‘Fairer through Fading–as the Dayas well.


Analysis of Fairer through Fading — as the Day

Stanza One 

In the first stanza of ‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ the speaker begins by utilizing the line that later became known as the title of the poem. In this line, the speaker discusses how the day becomes more beautiful in the speaker’s memory as it disappears. She finds that the evening and twilight hours bring her a greater appreciation for the light when it was fully present.  Dickinson depicts the day as a force that can “dip” into darkness and fade away. 

The poet makes use of alliteration in the next lines as she discusses the day’s remaining warm, lit complexion. She describes how the day is already party obscured by the night. But, it remains “Haunting” any who are looking close enough to notice. 


Stanza Two 

In the next four lines of ‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day,’ the speaker describes how at the last moment part of the glow is “Rallied”. It seems to gain new life. This is compared with another simile to “a dying Friend”. The entire poem is an extended metaphor comparing the setting of the sun to death, or more broadly, loss. 

It appears in the second line of the second stanza that there is some life left in the day. It glitters and teases, as though it’s going to make a comeback. This doesn’t happen though. The day ends up only “aggravat[ing] the Dark” and then expiring. There is one final “perfect” look at the end that is made all the more beautiful because it doesn’t last. 

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