Poetry (and Music) Sunday: Why – do they shut Me out of Heaven?

A Girl with basket of birds

A Girl with basket of birds


Do you ever worry about being unwelcome at Heaven’s gates for misbehavior? Is “singing too loud” cause for exclusion?


Here’s a lovely little poem of Emily Dickinson that asks, “is there a place for me in Heaven, even if I’m not exactly what you had in mind? Can I have a second chance? If our roles were switched,  I’d let you in!”




Why – do they shut Me out of Heaven?

Why – do they shut Me out of Heaven? 
Did I sing – too loud?
But – I can say a little “minor”
Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me –
Just – once – more –
Just – see – if I troubled them –
But don’t – shut the door!

Oh, if I – were the Gentleman
In the “White Robe” –
And they – were the little Hand – that knocked –
Could – I – forbid?
F268 (1861)  248

Aaron Copland sets this text in his vocal song cycle, 12 poems of Emily Dickinson (1950).  You can listen to a lovely recording by clicking here. (this text is the third song,  begins at the 5:30 mark)

The question I’m left with is: Who are “they” in the first and penultimate line? I think of the admonition to “Judge not, lest ye be not judged” and wish for a Heaven where God is only as just as necessary and as merciful as possible. And doesn’t mind my loud singing.


Violadiva is an oxymoron, a musician, a yogi, a Suzuki violin teacher, a late-night baker of sourdough breads, proud Mormon feminist, happy wife of Pianoman and lucky mother to three.

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4 Responses

  1. KMDuff says:

    Emily Dickinson is so lovely.

  2. Patty says:

    Beautiful arrangement. I listened to the first three.

  3. Caroline says:

    Love Dickinson — but I’m with you. I have a lot of questions about some of these references. The “they” in the first stanza …. maybe self-righteous community people? Maybe I’m projecting…

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