My Life Had Stood – a Loaded Gun

My Life Had Stood – a Loaded Gun

 by Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
In Corners – till a Day
The Owner passed – identified –
And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe –
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through –

And when at Night – Our good Day done –
I guard My Master’s Head –
’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
Deep Pillow – to have shared –

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die –

Summary of My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun

  • Popularity of “My Life Had Stood – a Loaded Gun”: This poem was written by Emily Dickinson, a great American poet. ‘My Life Had Stood – a Loaded Gun’ is one of the most powerful poems by the poet know from the theme of power. It was first published in 1929. One of the many interpretations is the speaker’s inner strength. To a few people, the poem illustrates how the speaker is determined to remain bold through difficulties. One of the best interpretations, however, is that the poem speaks about the power of words to influence someone who is already stronger, i.e., men.
  • “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun” As a Representative of Power: The speaker compares her life’s challenges with a loaded gun and attempts to explain how she fulfills her duties toward her owner. In the past, she stood purposelessly in a corner when one day a hunter came and owned her. Right from that day, she became his companion. Being desperate to expose her full potential, she accompanies her master for hunting. When she speaks, even nature listens and replies to her. Also, at night, when her master is asleep, she guards that protects him from foes. Ironically, she is going to live longer than his master because she possesses the power to kill. She describes the power she feels within her. Here the power comes through her written words and the influence over the readers. Indirectly, the poet concludes that she will live forever through her poetry.
  • Major Themes in “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”: Power, identification, and immortal literature are the major themes of this poem. Throughout the poem, the speaker compares herself with a loaded gun that reflects her potential power as a writer. She expresses that her writing ability was enclosed until a master came and brought them to light. She uses the extended metaphor to express her ideas about her writing. To her, expressing an opinion clearly is far better than sleeping peacefully on a soft pillow. Therefore, she determines to stand up with the right things because she believes that she possesses that writing power that can kill the wrong ideas of people.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”

Literary devices are used to enhance the intended impact of the poem. The analysis of some literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, For example, the sound of /i/ in “And do I smile, such cordial light”.
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /s/ in “And do I smile, such cordial light” and the sound of /m/ in “I guard My Master’s Head”.
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “And now We” in the second stanza of the poem to emphasize the point of unity of herself and her words.

“And now We roam in Sovereign Woods –
And now We hunt the Doe.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it continues in the next line. For example,

“And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let it’s pleasure through.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”, “’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s” and “On whom I lay a Yellow Eye.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. For example, ‘gun’ as an extended metaphor for challenges that she had faced and also a tool to exhibit her power.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, life is personified in the first line of the poem, “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. Here, “gun” symbolizes violence and power.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”

Poetic devices are tools that the writers use to create rhythm, tone, and mood in the poem. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is a quatrain.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABCB rhyme scheme and this pattern continues until the end.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas in this poem.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful on an occasion of speech when talking about the concept of mortality. They can also be quoted to explain the power of written words – stories and poems that can influence people.

“Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without – the power to die.”