Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
So, funny story: I love literature, and I love discussing poetry. Ready for the funny part? None of my friends want to hear me talk about it. I’ve been reading poems by Emily Dickinson and can’t find anyone to talk to about them. It occurred to me that I have a blog to rant and rave about things no one but me seems to care about. I’m sure fewer of you care about Emily Dickinson than about the series from the 1990s I’ve been blogging about, but this blog is primarily for me, and I want to write about Emily Dickinson, damn it. So, here is Nevermore’s first poetry reflection.
This entry covers “Wild Nights – Wild Nights” by Emily Dickinson. Dickinson never named her poems; “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!” is the first line of the poem and is used to identify the poem since it has no title. Since her poems are public domain, I have posted it below the cut for your perusal. Thanks, Rosy, for the information on copyright!
I should also state that my interpretations and analysis thereof are just that. I don’t claim to have the only, the best, or the correct interpretation of any poem, and you are free and encouraged to comment and tell me you think I’m wrong and offer another view. I would love nothing more than to debate poetry with you, and I say that genuinely. I’m a giant nerd.
Alright, let’s get this party started.
Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
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 –
I found “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!” to be incredibly sexual the first time I read it. Dickinson writes, “Wild nights should be / Our luxury” (1.3-4) and “Might I but moor – tonight -/ In thee” (3.3-4). She wants to moor where?
She says, “Done with the Compass -/ Done with the Chart” (2.3-4). I took all of this to mean she, the speaker — not necessarily Dickinson, and only female because Dickinson is female and I just pictured a woman speaker in my head, wants to navigate her lover’s body in a night of luxury, and doesn’t want or need a compass or a chart.
That was just my first time reading it, though. The second time I read the poem, I picked up on other details. Dickson’s speaker says her heart is in port (2.2) and says wild nights are a luxury (1.3-4). A port is where ships go to dock. Her heart is docked. What if she once experienced wild nights, does so no longer, and wants them again? It would explain why wild nights are a “luxury,” something she has very rarely, or doesn’t have anymore. Dickinson exclaims, “Rowing in Eden! -/ Ah – the sea!” (3.1-2). Her heart is docked at port, and she misses the thrill of the sea.
“Eden” is an interesting choice for a word and location. Eden is the garden in the Bible where Eve was tempted by a snake and ate an apple she shouldn’t have. I associate temptation with the word “Eden,” which again, brings a very sexual component to this poem.
Dickinson’s speaker is tempted by the sea while being docked at port, and longs for the luxury of wild nights. In a sentence, this is my interpretation of the poem. At only 3 stanzas and 12 lines, there is not a lot of poem to analyze, but I did my best. I would be very curious to read other interpretations.
Symbolism and Imagery – There are a lot of “at sea” images in this poem. Words like “sea,” “port,” “rowing,” and “moor” make me think about water. Love and passion can be very fluid, so this imagery works for the poem. I imagine Dickinson’s speaker anchored at port while the water of the sea, passion, moves around her and through her. She longs to move with it.
Alliteration – The first stanza is full of soft “W” sounds: “Wild nights – Wild nights! / Were I with thee / Wild nights should be / Our luxury” (1.1-4). These soft sounds make it seem like the person the speaker is writing to is easy to be with romantically, and perhaps like the speaker is ready to be carried away in passion. Something I find interesting is Dickinson writes “should be” instead of “would be,” which would have fit there and would have continued the alliteration. That makes the word “should” jarring. Perhaps it is because the speaker is not sure she can ever truly leave port. She’s tempted, and dreams of venturing out into the sea, but I think she is not yet ready to leave her comfort zone. The temptation of wild nights might be exciting enough.
I like “Wild Nights – Wild Nights!” I wanted to start with this poem because I have always associated Emily Dickinson with her poems about death (“Because I could not stop for Death – / He kindly stopped for me”), and was surprised and intrigued to find another side of her. Don’t worry; I’ll get to the death poems, but I enjoyed reading something different, and I hope you did, too.
Do you have a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson?