Heart, we will forget him! By Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

‘Heart, we will forget him!’ by Emily Dickinson is a keen observation of the aftermath of a powerful love affair and how it will, or will not, be “forgotten.”

Emily Dickinson

Nationality: America

Emily Dickinson redefined American poetry with unique line breaks and unexpected rhymes.

Notable works include 'Because I could not stop for Death' and 'Hope is the Thing with Feathers.' 

Key Poem Information

Central Message: The things that are the most meaningful are the hardest to forget

Speaker: A woman who is trying to forget a past lover

Emotions Evoked: Pain, Passion, Sadness

Poetic Form: Ballad, Quatrain

Time Period: 19th Century

This heart-wrenching poem of unrequited love evokes the impossibility of forgetting powerful relationships in our lives.

The poem, ‘Heart, we will forget him!’, explains the after-effects of unrequited love. The afflicted lover is going through pain and depression that shatters the emotional balance one needs to have in life. The intensity of emotion is the strength of an effect, thus the affected heart changes the effects of life. The poem illustrates the state of the heart and the responses of the changing emotions. Emily Dickson was one of the best lyric poets.

She was an intelligent writer, wise with her words, and gifted with the ability to interpret human passion intensely. Emily was a reclusive poet who lived in physical isolation, yet observed nature and the world so keenly that her rich and diverse symbolic fantasies and scriptures made her a towering figure of American Literature.

In the poem ‘Heart, we will forget him!’, she articulates herself as someone who is heartbroken, and is trying to forget someone very close to her. The time she has spent with him and the memories she has collected cause her distress and grief. She badly misses him and is hurt by the relationship status she shares with him. The emotional bond she has tied with him gives her pain, thus she finds it difficult to forget him.

The poet personifies the heart as a person with human attributes. Once the emotion for him fades away or diminishes, the heart will forget him, though not literally. I admire the autobiographical piece narrated by the eloquent orator that brings to light her personal aspect with insight for deep introspection and meticulous attention to language.

Heart, we will forget him!
Emily Dickinson

Heart, we will forget him!You an I, tonight!You may forget the warmth he gave,I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell meThat I my thoughts may dim;Haste! lest while you're lagging.I may remember him!
Heart, we will forget him! By Emily Dickinson

Heart, we will forget him! Analysis

Stanza One

Heart, we will forget him!

You and I, to-night!

You may forget the warmth he gave,

I will forget the light.

In this poem, Emily reveals her personal experience. The impression of her experiences on her heart and soul gave birth to the endless unforgettable pain she inscribed on paper that became history.

‘Heart, we will forget him!’ consists of two stanzas with no exact meter structure. The rhythm taps with the rhyme scheme of 1232 4565. The poem is consistent with the first and third lines being longer than the second and fourth. The second and fourth lines rhyme with “night” and “light”. The rhyming words emphasize the intensity of darkness and silence associated with the “night” whereas life and happiness express “light”.

The “light” is explained as life and usually depicts comfort, peace, and a happy beginning. The figurative language used by the poet illustrates that she wants her heart (personified as a human) to forget everything about him and “help” her forget him completely. “Heart, we will forget him!” is the title of the poem and the first line of the first stanza also remains the same.

Emily repeats this line to tutor herself to forget him because she is unable to do so. She is trying hard to believe that she will be successful in diminishing his memories from her mind and soul and partners her dear friend, her heart to accompany her in achieving this task as if it can feel and listen to what she says. In other words, she tries to abstain from the uncontrollable urges of missing him or remembering him. The feeling heart and the thinking mind both have a conflict as she treats both as separate individuals.

The use of the poetic refrain, Heart, we will forget him; makes it easy for the reader to remember the theme of the poem (forget him), the description format to specify its tone, and the poet’s sentiments and attitude towards the subject of the poem (him). The exclamation mark expresses a command she gives to her heart that indicates strong feelings and determination to forget him. She displays the challenge to confront and defeat her broken heart by forgetting him. This is revealed by the repetition of “forget” in the imperative mood thrice in the first stanza. This use of the verb demonstrates that she is requesting or demanding the heart to forget him. The repetition of the word “forget” in the first, third, and fourth lines depict the fact that she misses him, she remembers him and she cannot forget him.

You and I, to-night!

The second line describes that the matter has to be solved urgently (forgetting him). She wants to get over her lost love as soon as possible “tonight”, wasting no time in doing so. She detains the tumult created inside her heart that links her love with his rejection. She promises her heart that both of them will forget him.

You may forget the warmth he gave,

I will forget the light

She states that “the warmth he gave” has to be forgotten by her heart while she will forget “the light”. The “warmth” here refers to the love, affection, liking, attachment, and passion that portray the emotional side of her heart. The “light” refers to the bright and intellectual side of her love and their relationship. It enlightened her and enabled her to see things from a different perspective, she probably didn’t see earlier. “Light” also refers to the beam of light, a new life, and a source of happiness.

Ultimately the “light” means “him”, he was the source of happiness, he was that beam of light in her life that enlightened her world and filled it with happiness. She calls for action and proposes a plan to her heart that you have to forget the “warmth” first, only then can my mind forget the “light”. When talking about matters of love and heart, the heart always seems to have an upper hand. The heart affairs depict the spellbinding blend of love and pain. In this poem, Emily narrates her depressing and heartbreaking love story and her painful journey from light to darkness. She paints a gloomy and dark picture of her love story that broke my heart.

Stanza Two

When you have done, pray tell me,

That I my thoughts may dim;

Haste! lest while youíre lagging,

I may remember him!

She is talking to her heart, requesting her dear friend to let her know when “the heart” has forgotten the “warmth he gave”. “Pray” here emphasizes the request. It means “please tell me” so that I may proceed with my part of the job, gradually forgetting him. Her submitted heart confirms that “he” completely rules over her. “Submission” is a feminine trait that brings strength, passion, and life to a relationship if the man welcomes it and receives it with love and respect. Submission allows a woman to learn more about her femininity and experience the essence of love physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally that starts with a touch of love. Dickson surrenders herself to his strength and leadership. Her imprisoned love engages her in his thoughts setting emotional boundaries that she cannot break.

The second and fourth lines rhyme with “dim” and “him”. The last words of these lines explain the diminishing relationship. The union of the separated couple comes to an end. It’s “dim” and dark without “him” or “dim” because there is no “him” anymore.

Haste! lest while youíre lagging,

She asks her heart to hurry and forget him. “Haste!” means “fast” or “hurry”, the exclamation mark here demonstrates how difficult it is for her to let go. She realizes that the battle she and her heart are fighting will be lost when she insists on her heart to forget it quickly and not “lag”. The speaker sounds weak towards the end of the poem when she says if the forgetting process is not done quickly by you (the heart), my thoughts may drift in the same direction again, towards him and I will fail to accomplish what I intended to.

It ends with a final poetic tap and a feminine ending “I may remember him!” the exclamation point here hints that despite several attempts she has lost the battle. The first line and the last line of ‘Heart, we will forget him!’ both end in “him”. The focus of the poem is on “him”, she started from “him” and ended at “him” revealing the fact that she has failed to forget him. The restraining order to the heart and her determination to forget him fails and comes to an end. She is at the same point in the journey by the end of the poem, where she started from. The “trying” to be a forgotten lover (him) is so special, so dear that the cycle of her life starts and ends with “him”. “I may remember him” informs us how deep her love for him is. Missing him involves heartaches and loss of spiritual encouragement that the poem and the poet both disclose.

The lyric poem and the love story of Emily, who had strong feelings of “love” and “want” and what she has been through in the journey of love was razed with rejection. The story revolves around “You, “I”, “him” and “heart”. A lot of imagery is used to present ideas to add depth to the poem that intensifies the reader’s understanding and appeals to our senses. The sound of the poem is sad and emotional with a tragic end. ‘Heart, we will forget him!’ tells us about a loving woman who had very strong love feelings for a man whom she was trying to forget. It is about making an attempt to forget him who left her alone in pain. Emily commands her heart to support and encourage her to forget the unanswered and unreciprocated love.

Emily Dickinson’s Love Life

Emily Dickinson never got married. The “him” in ‘Heart, we will forget him!’ is unknown, but Dickson is believed to have had several significant male friends during her lifetime. Although it’s debatable, Samuel Bowel an American journalist, and Rev. Charles Wadsworth a clergyman could be the subject of Emily’s romantic poetry. She wrote poems and letters to them that signify a strong bond and a deep connection she shared with them. Both men were happily married which could have been the primary reason for their relationship to die.

Emily Dickson’s poetry inquires about and discusses the intricacy, craze, and deep passion for relationships. The use of vivid language and her compelling thoughts create an aura of mystery and delight.

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Mewish Khawaja Poetry Expert
Mewish joined the Poem Analysis team back in May 2017. She has a passion for poetry and has freelanced for other high-end websites, such as tranquilitycremation.com.
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