Special Features - Voices

This World is not Conclusion, by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was one of the few students at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary who refused to pledge herself to a belief in organized religion. A number of her poems reflect her ambivalence about religion and science. There are multiple ways to interpret this poem: Is she mostly expressing doubt about "philosophy" (science) because it "don't know"? But doubt "nibbles at the soul" like the pain of an infected tooth, so religion may not be the answer, either. Such conundrums are the reason so many people are fascinated by Dickinson's poems still today.

This world is not Conclusion.

A Species stands beyond—

Invisible, as Music—

But positive, as Sound—

It beckons, and it baffles—

Philosophy, don’t know—

And through a Riddle, at the last—

Sagacity must go—

To guess it, puzzles scholars—

To gain it, Men have borne

Contempt of Generations

And Crucifixion, shown—

Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—

Blushes, if any see—

Plucks at a twig of Evidence—

And asks a Vane, the way—

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—

Strong Hallelujahs roll—

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth

That nibbles at the soul.