Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems Summary and Analysis
"There came a Day at Summer's full"
This poem presents a kind of sacramental ceremony between the speaker and another. This other, depending on the reading, is either a human lover, or Christ. The opening stanza describes the coming of a summer day, specifically, the summer solstice (“There came a Day at Summer’s full”), which is beyond normal human experience (“I thought that such were for the Saints”) and reserved for the divine, because it allows for rebirth (“Where Resurrections – be –“). In this case, however, the speaker is allowed to participate and is, in fact, the sole recipient (“Entirely for me”).
In the next stanza, the natural world continues to act as if everything were normal. The sun sets (“The Sun, as common, went abroad”), the wind blows (“The flowers, accustomed, blew”), as if this ceremony, and its association with resurrection, were not occurring (“As if no soul the solstice passed/That maketh all things new –“).
The speaker then describes a kind of sacred, ultimate silence (“The time was scarce profaned, by speech –“) that does not need superfluous words, because all is understood without them (“The symbol of a word,/Was needless”). She compares words in this situation to Christ’s clothes “at Sacrament", carrying no meaning.
The next stanza makes it clear that there is another person present, although whether it is a lover or Christ is less clear. The speaker and the other are presented here, however, as equals (“Each was to each The Sealed Church”), or at least, as equally important to each other. They are given this day to “commune,” as a kind of practice for their later meeting in, ostensibly, heaven (“Lest we too awkward show / At Supper of the Lamb”).
The time goes by quickly (“The Hours slid fast”), because the speaker and her companion don’t want it to pass at all (“As Hours will, / Clutched tight, by greedy hands –“). Knowing they must now part, as two “Bound to opposing lands,” they each crucify the other -- that is, they separate, and in so doing, they die. But this ceremony acts as a betrothal (“Sufficient troth”) for a reunion, a spiritual wedding (“To that new Marriage”), beyond the grave (“we shall rise – / Deposed – at length, the grave“).
Dickinson wrote many poems about the sacrament, which always presented a non-traditional, often non-Christian, view of it, and “There came a Day at Summer’s full” is no exception. This poem can be read two ways, either as Dickinson sacramentally presenting the apocalyptic marriage with the Lamb described in Revelation, or using Revelation metaphorically to describe a non-religious kind of love between two human lovers.
The second reading seems a little more likely, as Dickinson more often uses Christian symbolism in a rather atypical way, and her diction in this poem, while often religious, always seems to offer a more profane reading as well. This especially helps to explain the last stanza, as it describes the two figures both rising from their graves to meet in heaven; Christ is already waiting in heaven, and so it seems more likely that the second figure is also human.
Additionally, the opening of the poem makes it clear that, although this day is divine in its way, it is surprising because it is not a day for divine characters—the speaker thinks that this day can only be for Saints, but instead, it is “Entirely” for her. Thus, it seems unlikely that the other participant in the sacrament is divine. She also describes them as being “permitted to commune,” which implies that there is a figure removed from the scene who is controlling it, and this seems more likely to be the divine figure.
The expression of love in this poem, though, still becomes divine—in a way, it is more divine than the Christian sacrament, which relies on symbols of Christ’s love. This is then through simile equated to Christ’s wardrobe -- namely what cloaks and hides the true event, just as symbols are tools which stand between the perceiver and the truth. The implication then is that there is a profound spiritual, and perhaps physical, nudity that does not require these symbols for understanding.
These two lovers tie on each others’ crucifix -- which means, essentially, that they are each the others’ instrument of death. This is because their hour of separation has come, and this separation is, to them, fatal. Yet the fact that they cannot live apart serves as its own guarantee—or, “troth”—according to the speaker, that they will meet again and that they will have a “new Marriage.” This marriage constitutes a spiritual marriage in heaven, for they should both soon find themselves there.
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