The poem is written in Dickinson’s traditional ballad meter and divided into seven stanzas. The poem uses a few complicated images, like that of hands clutching at “Time” that passes too quickly, making the text slightly hard to decipher, at least on a first reading. Reading the ‘There came a Day—at Summer’s full’ twice with the knowledge that the speaker is considering an incredibly important relationship helps clear up Dickinson’s use of language considerably.
There came a Day—at Summer's full Emily Dickinson There came a Day—at Summer's full, Entirely for me— I thought that such—were for the Saints— Where Resurrections—be— The Sun—as common—went abroad— The flowers—accustomed—blew, As if no soul the solstice passed— That maketh all things new. The time was scarce profaned—by speech— The symbol of a word Was needless—as at Sacrament— The Wardrobe—of our Lord— Each was to each—the sealed church, Permitted to commune this—time— Lest we too awkward show— At “Supper of the Lamb.” The Hours slid fast—as Hours will— Clutched tight—by greedy hands— So—faces on two Decks—look back— Bound to opposing Lands— And so when all the time had failed— Without external sound— Each—bound the other's Crucifix— We gave no other Bond— Sufficient troth—that we shall rise— Deposed—at length—the Grave— To that new Marriage— Justified—through Calvaries of Love!
‘There came a Day—at Summer’s full’ by Emily Dickinson is a thoughtful poem that explores the situation of two lovers.
The poem begins with the speaker talking about a particularly incredible day. No one, except someone likely their lover, realizes its importance. The speaker is spending time with the person they love, and the hours are flying by.
No matter how hard they “clutch” at times, they can’t stop it from passing. The speaker tries to be okay with this because she knows their time on earth is only a temporary situation. Soon, they’ll be reunited in Heaven, where they’ll be together for all eternity.
The themes of this poem are faith and love. The speaker has a clear affection for their partner, someone who circumstance keeps them away from. They also know that even though they’re separated in the living world, after death, they’ll be reunited and get to spend eternity together.
Once they’ve both passed away, they’ll meet in heaven. The speaker says the time they spend on earth together is just to prepare them for the next life.
Structure and Form
‘There came a Day—at Summer’s full’ by Emily Dickinson is a seven-stanza poem that is divided into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a rhyme scheme ABCB, and changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. For example, “me” and “be” in stanza one rhyme and “blew” and “new” in stanza two rhyme.
The poet also chose to use ballad meter (commonly seen in Dickinson’s verse). This means that the poet used an alternating pattern of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. The odd-numbered lines are in the former, and the even-numbered lines are in the latter. The first two lines are a great example of how Dickinson alternates the two iambic meters.
Throughout this poem, Dickinson makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: a transition between lines that occurs at a natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines three and four of the second stanza and lines two and three of the third stanza.
- Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “such” and “Saints” in stanza one and “back” and “Bound” in stanza five.
- Anaphora: the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “The” begins lines one and two of the third stanza.
- Personification: occurs when the poet imbues something non-human with human characteristics. For example, the poet describes the sun as going “abroad” at the beginning of stanza two. This suggests that, like a human being, it chooses where it travels to and when.
There came a Day—at Summer’s full,
Entirely for me—
I thought that such—were for the Saints—
In the first stanza of this Dickinson poem, the speaker begins by describing the setting. It’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (which happens in June).
The day was so sublime that the speaker felt she was experiencing something that only saints should enjoy. It allows for “Resurrections,” she adds, or rebirths. This suggests that it’s a time of change and transition. The day is “Entirely” for the speaker, not for “Saints,” though.
The Sun—as common—went abroad—
As if no soul the solstice passed—
That maketh all things new.
The speaker notes in the second stanza how the world continued on as though everything was normal. The flowers blew, and the sun shone as it always does. No one seemed to notice “the solstice passed.”
Readers may find themselves further connecting these lines to the image of Resurrection in the first stanza, specifically Christ’s resurrection in the Christian Bible (a common theme in Dickinson’s poetry). No one appears to be appreciating the day or its events like the speaker is. The world is proceeding as if everything is the same as the day before and the day after.
The time was scarce profaned—by speech—
The symbol of a word
Was needless—as at Sacrament—
The Wardrobe—of our Lord—
Silence is an important part of stanza three. Dickinson suggests that during this time, there was no “speech” that profaned the quiet. The speaker and one other person the poet slowly introduces do not need words to analyze the situation. The hours the two had together were holy, and as the fourth stanza suggests, they both knew their time together was limited.
The poet uses the line “The Wardrobe—of our Lord” at the end of this stanza. Here, she’s alluding to the unimportance of Christ’s clothes during the Sacrament and comparing their unimportance to the purposelessness of using language at a time like this.
Each was to each—the sealed church,
Permitted to commune this—time—
Lest we too awkward show—
At “Supper of the Lamb.”
In the fourth stanza, the speaker makes it clear that there is a second person also experiencing this special solstice day. She refers to the two as “we,” suggesting closeness and shared experience. They’ve been given this “time” to “commune.”
The speaker suggests that the time they were permitted to spend together was special in ensuring they weren’t “too awkward…At ‘Supper of the Lamb.’”
This unusual phrase indicates that the speaker plans to see this person in the next life (in the Christian image of Heaven). That’s when they’ll spend most of their time together, but God has allowed them to get to know each other now.
The Hours slid fast—as Hours will—
Clutched tight—by greedy hands—
So—faces on two Decks—look back—
Bound to opposing Lands—
The speaker uses the fifth stanza to describe how time flew while they were together. The “Hours slid fast” as they often do when one is enjoying themselves and wishing for more time. The poet uses a wonderful image of “greedy hands” trying to clutch the hours tight in these lines as well.
They have to part, the speaker says, because they are “Bound to opposing Lands.” They have very different lives and unnamed obligations that keep them from one another permanently.
And so when all the time had failed—
Without external sound—
Each—bound the other’s Crucifix—
We gave no other Bond—
In the sixth stanza, the speaker says that time has run out and the two, still maintaining their silence (as words won’t do their situation justice), commit themselves to one another. They are “bound the other’s Crucifix.” This suggests that they’ve sworn themselves to one another through the bonds of their religion.
Sufficient troth—that we shall rise—
Deposed—at length—the Grave—
To that new Marriage—
Justified—through Calvaries of Love!
The speaker concludes by saying that the two will die and be reunited in the afterlife. They’ll see “at length—the Grave— / To that new Marriage.” Once in Heaven, the two will spend all the time together they want to during their lifetimes.
During life, they endured a calvary of “Love,” or a great ordeal for their love. Now, their reunion makes up for that. In fact, the speaker implies that they deserve this happiness because of how much they suffered.
The message is that after death, the struggle one endures during their lifetime will be alleviated. In this case, two people, very likely lovers, struggle to spend as much time together as possible but know they all be reunited permanently after death.
The tone is confident and emotional. The poet uses language that clearly demonstrates her speaker’s anguish over her romantic situation. But, at the same time, she also presents her speaker in a confident light. The two lovers know, seemingly without a shadow of a doubt, that they’ll get to spend the rest of eternity together.
‘There came a Day—at Summer’s full’ is a ballad. The poet uses four-line stanzas, known as quatrains. They follow a rhyme scheme ABCB and use alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.
The poem is about two lovers who are separated by obligations and circumstances during their lifetime. But, they bind themselves to one another and are confident they’re going to be reunited after death.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Emily Dickinson poems. For example:
- ‘Fame is a bee’ – talks about the transient nature of “fame” by using the metaphor of a “bee.”
- ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’ – a poem about hope. It is depicted through the famous metaphor of a bird.
- ‘Fairer through Fading — as the Day’ by Emily Dickinson describes the sun and the value of all things. She uses the day as a symbol for what’s lost and will come again.
- ‘The Letter’ – is a sweet love poem. It is told from the perceptive of a love letter.