Most Famous Poems by Emily Dickinson

“Faith” is a fine invention

Number: 185

An often quoted poem, ‘”Faith” is a fine invention’ gives insight on Dickinson’s views on religion and science. While calling faith an invention and putting it in quotation marks suggests that the poem is pro science yet the ability for only some to ‘see’, or possess a kind a divine power, contradicts that. No wonder Dickinson is famous as the “The poet of paradox”. She goes on to add that it is wiser to use ‘microscopes’, or science, in an emergency.


“Faith” is a fine invention

For Gentlemen who see!

But Microscopes are prudent

In an Emergency!

Much Madness is divinest Sense

Number: 435

‘Much Madness’ begins with a paradoxical line which equates madness to divine sense. Dickinson talks about the insane society which treats individuality as madness. If you agree with the majority you are sane but if you raise objections you are considered dangerous and need to be controlled. The madness versus sanity theme of the poem can also be interpreted in various other ways adding to the popularity of the poem.


Much Madness is divinest Sense –

To a discerning Eye –

Much Sense – the starkest Madness –

‘Tis the Majority

In this, as all, prevail –

Assent – and you are sane –

Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –

And handled with a Chain –

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

Number: 1129

In this poem Dickinson presents truth as a powerful entity whose dazzling brilliance can bring this world to an end. Hence she suggests that it would be wise to tell the truth but ‘tell it slant’ and to gradually ease it into the world.


Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

Success Is Counted Sweetest

Number: 67

In this poem Dickinson uses the image of a victorious army and of a defeated soldier who is dying. Through this image she conveys that success can be understood best by those who have suffered defeat. The popularity of the poem lies in the fact that unlike some of her other poems which talk about losing in romance, ‘Success Is Counted Sweetest’ “can be applied to any situation where there are winners and losers.”


Success is counted sweetest

By those who ne’er succeed.

To comprehend a nectar

Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple Host

Who took the Flag today

Can tell the definition

So clear of victory

As he defeated – dying –

On whose forbidden ear

The distant strains of triumph

Burst agonized and clear!

Wild nights – Wild nights!

Number: 249

‘Wild nights – Wild nights!’ is widely discussed for its implications. It doesn’t tell a story but is an expression of wish or desire. Dickinson uses the sea as an image for passion. It remains one of the most popular romantic poems written by an American.


Wild nights – Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –

To a Heart in port –

Done with the Compass –

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden –

Ah – the Sea!

Might I but moor – tonight –

In thee!

If I can stop one Heart from breaking

Number: 919

This simple and often quoted poem by Dickinson talks about the deeds one can do which will insure that one’s life was not is vain.


If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain ;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

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