The poet describes a soul personified as a woman in ‘The Soul has Bandaged Moments.’ The soul is sometimes free and sometimes controlled by fear. The soul is at the mercy of its emotions, unable to control itself. This piece was published posthumously or after Dickinson’s death.
The Soul has Bandaged Moments Emily Dickinson The Soul has Bandaged moments - When too appalled to stir - She feels some ghastly Fright come up And stop to look at her - Salute her, with long fingers - Caress her freezing hair - Sip, Goblin, from the very lips The Lover - hovered - o'er - Unworthy, that a thought so mean Accost a Theme - so - fair - The soul has moments of escape - When bursting all the doors - She dances like a Bomb, abroad, And swings opon the Hours, As do the Bee - delirious borne - Long Dungeoned from his Rose - Touch Liberty - then know no more - But Noon, and Paradise The Soul's retaken moments - When, Felon led along, With shackles on the plumed feet, And staples, in the song, The Horror welcomes her, again, These, are not brayed of Tongue -
Explore The Soul has Bandaged Moments
‘The Soul has Bandaged Moments’ by Emily Dickinson is a powerful piece that uses the human soul to talk about freedom and fear.
The poem begins with the speaker describing how there are times when it seems as though the souls are covered in bandages. The soul is frozen with fear during these times, sensing that something terrible is coming to watch her. That “terrible” thing is Fear itself. The poet uses personification to describe Fear as something real and tangible. It has long fingers that it uses to touch the “Soul.” Horrible thoughts and experiences come into the soul, something that should be beautiful.
But, the speaker continues, there are other times when the soul escapes. It breaks down barriers and dances. The soul is compared to a bee, experiencing freedom. But, it is eventually recaptured and made a prisoner. The “Fear” returns once more and the moments are so terrible one can’t even scream about them.
Structure and Form
‘The Soul has Bandaged Moments’ by Emily Dickinson is a six-stanza poem that is divided into sets of two, four, or six lines. Most of the stanzas are quatrains or sets of four lines. They are also mostly written in ballad meter. This is common to Dickinson’s verse and occurs when the poet alternates lines of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter. The poem also uses a rhyme scheme of ABCB; changing end sounds throughout.
Throughout this poem, Dickinson makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. For example, “Caress her freezing hair – / Sip, Goblin, from the very lips.”
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound a the beginning of multiple words. For example, “feels” and “Fright” in the first stanza.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before the natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines three and four of the first stanza.
The Soul has Bandaged moments –
When too appalled to stir –
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her –
In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker begins by noting that there are moments where the “Soul,” personified as a woman, is too afraid to move. She is frozen as “Fear” comes up to “look at her.” Dickinson capitalizes “Fear” and “Soul,” ensuring that readers are aware that these ideas are being personified as described as real human-like beings.
Salute her, with long fingers –
Caress her freezing hair –
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover – hovered – o’er –
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme – so – fair –
In the next stanza, the speaker describes how Fear touches and changes the Soul. It has long fingers and drinks like a goblin from the same lips that the “Lover” of the “Soul” once “hovered- o’er.” This is a desecration of everything that is good about the Soul and love.
The speaker concludes this stanza by noting that these thoughts are horrible and should not be violating something as beautiful as the soul.
The soul has moments of escape –
When bursting all the doors –
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings opon the Hours,
In the next four lines, the speaker changes how they are talking about the Soul. There are fearful moments, but there are also beautiful ones. The Soul takes flight and takes advantage of moments of escape. She is “like a Bomb,” an example of a simile. She breaks down her narrates and “swings opon the Hours.” This is a way of suggesting that in these moments, “Time” is nothing more than a swing to play on.
As do the Bee – delirious borne –
Long Dungeoned from his Rose –
Touch Liberty – then know no more –
But Noon, and Paradise
The fourth stanza uses another simile to compare the Soul to a bee. It rises into the sky and moves about freely. It has escaped for a time from Fear. It touches Liberty, but this isn’t a permanent state of being.
The Soul’s retaken moments –
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the song,
The Soul is eventually recaptured. It is taken back to its dungeon, like a prisoner, by Fear. It is restricted and contained by Fear once more. The “song” it sang of freedom is no more.
The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue –
The final lines suggest how terrible this change is. There is nothing but “Horror” in that metaphorical dungeon. It is something that is too “awful” even to be screamed about.
The purpose is to describe the nature of the human soul and the way that fear, and other dark emotions, can take it over. These emotions are complex, if not impossible, to control.
The speaker is someone who understands the human soul, the way it operates, and the way fear can change it quite well. Whether or not the speaker is meant to be the poet herself, or if the poet saw herself in the personified female image of the soul, is unknown.
The theme of this piece is the power of emotion and a human being’s inability to control them clearly. If fear could be kept at bay at all times, the Soul would always be free, like a bee, to experience life purely.
The meaning is that human emotions are incredibly powerful and influential. They change one’s perception of life from one filled with freedom and possibility to one of confinement and fear.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also consider reading some other Emily Dickinson poems. For example:
- ‘A Bird, came down the Walk’ – a beautiful nature poem. It focuses on the actions of a bird going about its everyday life.
- ‘A Coffin is a small Domain’ – explores death. It is characteristic of much of the poet’s work in that it clearly addresses this topic and everything that goes along with it.
- ‘A drop fell on the apple tree’ – is filled with joy. It describes, with Dickinson’s classic skill, images of the summer season and how a storm can influence it.