To Fight Aloud, is Very Brave

Emily Dickinson

‘To fight aloud, is very brave’ by Emily Dickinson compares inner and outer struggles. She emphasizes the former, suggesting it is far more complex and difficult than it seems.

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: It's better to work hard behind the scenes than in the public spot light

Themes: Journey

Speaker: Likely Emily Dickinson

Emotions Evoked: Confidence

Poetic Form: Quatrain

Time Period: 19th Century

Once again, Emily Dickinson uses her poetry to express her feelings about living in the public spotlight with this poem.

To Fight Aloud, is Very Brave’ takes on the same tone and nature as many of Dickinson’s others. This poem particularly reflects the themes and ideas presented in her poem, “Publication is the Auction”. Dickinson was known for leading a very private life, declining publications of the majority of her poems. Most of what she had written was published after her death, and based on the views expressed in said poems, one can conclude that she would not have wished her poems to be published at all.

This poem gives honor to the kind of life that Dickinson herself cherished. It does not deny that there is honor in fighting for one’s country and dying with the high regard of the entire nation. However, it suggests that to live and to die quietly is even more honorable. The words expressed in ‘To fight aloud, is very brave’ suggest that to fight silently, to work for a cause peacefully, is of even more value than to fight and die publically.

There is also another facet to this poem.  The speaker suggests that to overcome battles of the mind and emotions is just as much, if not more of a victory than it is to fight and die for one’s country.

To fight aloud, is very brave -
Emily Dickinson

To fight aloud, is very brave - But gallanter, I knowWho charge within the bosomThe Calvalry of Wo -

Who win, and nations do not see - Who fall - and none observe - Whose dying eyes, no CountryRegards with patriot love -

We trust, in plumed processionFor such, the Angels go -Rank after Rank, with even feet -And Uniforms of snow.
To Fight Aloud, is Very Brave by Emily Dickinson

To fight aloud, is very brave Analysis

Stanza One

To fight aloud, is very brave –

But gallanter, I know

Who charge within the bosom

The Cavalry of Woe-

The speaker does not deny that it is brave to fight and to fight out loud for a cause one believes in. However, she also says that it is still more gallant to fight only within one’s own thoughts. This is why she says that those “who charge within the bosom the Calvary of Woe” are even more gallant than those who “fight aloud”. Calvary, in this stanza, is clearly a picture of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. It was certainly a time of woe for all who believed in him, and from his death stemmed the establishment of the Christian religion which populated most of the known world during the time Dickinson wrote ‘To fight aloud, is very brave’. Jesus of Nazareth did not fight his death, but took it upon himself. Those who follow the Christian faith believe that He did this to save the people of the world from utter destruction and give them the opportunity to be near to God. Thus, the speaker uses this as a metaphor, claiming that it is more honorable and gallant to fight within oneself and to suffer alone and without a fight than to go to war.

She uses the death of Jesus to support this claim. The message of the opening stanza is that a quiet life can be even more honorable than the public life. It also suggests that the battles of the mind are just as tumultuous as any battle ever fought. Thus, victory over one’s own private battles of the mind and soul is more honorable, even, that to die in battle or to fight aloud.

Stanza Two

Who win, and nations do not see-

Who fall- and none observe-

Whose dying eyes, no Country

Regards with patriot love-

With this stanza of ‘To fight aloud, is very brave’, she continues to praise a private way of life. She honors those “who win, and nations do not see”. She also honors all who have died, but “none observe”. The speaker probably assumes that she herself will die without notice, and she wishes to secure such people a place of honor for their life and their death.

She claims that it is honorable to live and to die without much notice, without “country regards” or “patriot love”. The speaker implies that one who dies alone and quietly may very well be even more gallant than the most decorated patriot. When she says, “Who win, and nations do not see-” she implies that the subject has won victories within his own soul during the course of his life. These little victories of the mind cannot be observed by the masses, but the person knows that he will die victorious, and there is honor in that.

Stanza Three

We trust, in plumed procession

For such, the Angels go-

Rank after Rank, with even feet-

And Uniforms of Snow.

With this stanza, the speaker gives her reasons for giving such honor to such quiet, private people. She claims that this is how the angels live. Though they may march rank after rank in “plumed procession”, they are unseen and quiet. They march forth in their “uniforms of snow” doing good without demanding notice.

Emily Dickinson Background

Emily Dickinson was well known for being a recluse for the majority of her life.  It was a rare occasion for her to have visitors, and rarer still for her to be seen in public. When an illness demanded the presence of a doctor, she allowed him to observe her only from a distance (The Dickinson Properties). She was considered strange by many who knew her most closely, and her poems suggest likewise. She wrote about matters most did not venture to talk about, and she seemed to live in fear of being noticed. Because she had such notions about privacy, it is perfectly understandable that she would wish to praise and honor the quiet life. It was, after all, the life she chose to lead.

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Allisa Corfman Poetry Expert
Allisa graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and English and taught World Literature and Composition at the high school level. She has always enjoyed writing, reading, and analysing literature.
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