Becoming the Female Divine: Dickinson's 353

by Amelia

i’ve loved dickinson’s poem 353* since the first time i read it as an undergraduate at BYU.  that love of her text becomes richer each time i read it again, so i thought i’d share it here.


I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Their’s –
The name They dropped opon my face
With water, in the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools,
I’ve finished threading – too –

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, Of Grace –
Unto supremest name –
Called to my Full – The Crescent dropped –
Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,
With one – small Diadem –

My second Rank – too small the first –
Crowned – Crowing – on my Father’s breast –
A half unconscious Queen –
But this time – Adequate – Erect,
With Will to choose,
Or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown –

i love the speaker’s power in this poem–her willingness to throw off the confines of her childhood religion and declare herself a queen.  no matter how many times i return, that power still speaks to me.

i’d like to discuss the poem–the power of its speaker as she becomes divine as well as other aspects of the poem–with the wonderful women (and men!) here at X2.  feel free to begin the discussion in the comments here.  i’ll be posting a more in-depth analysis of my own sometime in the next week, where we can continue conversation.

i’m so very much looking forward to what you have to say.

*this poem’s number in the Johnson edition is 508


Amelia has recently relocated to Salt Lake City for her new job selling college textbooks (a job she loves). She's a 9th generation Mormon redefining her relationship with the church (the church she both loves and hates). She's passionate about books, travel, beauty, and all things cheese.

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2 Responses

  1. Alisa says:

    I see it as a poem about individual responsibility in religion. A choice made by birth, or by one’s parents, can’t really be important to the individual. Getting outside of that can be more complicated, however, and I haven’t decided if the speaker/Dickenson has fully moved beyond her hailing and baptism into something she completely owns, but she seems to be moving that way.

    Thanks for posting this.

  2. Caroline says:

    This is the first time I’ve read the poem. I love the first stanza, and the first half of the second. Totally resonates with me. And then…. I’m not so sure I follow. Amy, what is the Crescent to which she refers? I also wonder what she means when she talks about existence’s whole arc filled up with a diadem.

    Can’t wait to hear you in depth analysis next week!

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