Poems of Emily Dickinson (Selected) | Study Guide

Emily Dickinson

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Poems of Emily Dickinson (Selected) | "Faith" is a fine invention | Summary

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Summary

This single stanza in ballad meter deviates from Dickinson's typical use of iambic meter only in the first line, which has seven rather than eight syllables, and begins with the single stressed syllable, "Faith," thereby emphasizing it as defined in the poem.

The speaker asserts faith is acceptable in situations when one can rely on the evidence gathered by the senses ("When Gentlemen who see!"). However, when one cannot fall back on the senses it is better to rely on science when it matters most: "Microscopes are prudent / In an Emergency!"

Analysis

By placing the word Faith in quotation marks, Dickinson has the speaker attempt to define it or at least define its limits. A keen observer of life, Dickinson trusts her senses, as does the speaker. She clearly believes in empiricism, favoring "microscopes" (science) over blind faith. The speaker emphasizes the importance of what one can actually see and examine, just as elsewhere in her poetry Dickinson expresses a preference for the heaven she can see here on earth—in other words, nature—to the one many believe exists after death. This poem also contains a paradox: the speaker says "Faith" is fine when one can see it—that is, use one's senses—but if one can use his or her senses then one doesn't need to rely on faith. By asserting that faith, which is belief in things unseen, is acceptable only when one can see and examine things, she is really saying that blind faith is unacceptable.

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