I Have A King Who Does Not Speak, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"I HAVE A KING, WHO DOES NOT SPEAK" by Emily Dickinson reflects the speaker's contemplation of their relationship with a silent king, likely a reference to God. The poem explores the speaker's alternating emotions of seeking divine guidance and rebelling against it. Through vivid imagery and contrasting emotions, Dickinson captures the complexities of faith, doubt, and human nature.

I HAVE A KING, WHO DOES NOT SPEAK

I have a King, who does not speak —
So — wondering — thro' the hours meek
I trudge the day away —
Half glad when it is night, and sleep,
If, haply, thro' a dream, to peep
In parlors, shut by day.
And if I do — when morning comes —
It is as if a hundred drums
Did round my pillow roll,
And shouts fill all my Childish sky,
And Bells keep saying "Victory"
From steeples in my soul!
And if I don't — the little Bird
Within the Orchard, is not heard,
And I omit to pray
"Father, thy will be done" today
For my will goes the other way,
And it were perjury!

Summary

"I HAVE A KING, WHO DOES NOT SPEAK" reflects the speaker's relationship with a silent king, possibly representing God. The poem delves into the speaker's emotional struggle between seeking divine guidance and rebelling against it. The speaker experiences moments of doubt, uncertainty, and rebellion, alternating with desires for divine connection and obedience. The poem explores the tension between human will and divine will, highlighting the complexities of faith and human nature.

Critical Analysis

The poem begins by introducing the concept of a silent king, indicating the speaker's recognition of a higher power that remains silent. The words "wondering" and "meek" suggest the speaker's humility and curiosity as they navigate their relationship with this king.

The speaker describes trudging through the day, implying a sense of duty and responsibility. The mention of being "half glad when it is night" suggests relief and a moment of respite from the challenges of the day. Sleep becomes a way to escape into dreams and glimpses of hidden truths ("parlors, shut by day").

The second stanza explores the consequences of seeking divine connection. The imagery of drums and shouts conveys a sense of triumph and victory associated with divine revelation. The use of the term "Childish sky" suggests the speaker's childlike awe and wonder when experiencing a divine presence.

Contrasting with the previous stanza, the third stanza delves into the consequences of not seeking divine guidance. The absence of the "little Bird / Within the Orchard" symbolizes a lack of spiritual awareness or connection. The speaker's omission of the prayer "Father, thy will be done" reflects a rebellion against divine will in favor of personal desires.

The final line "And it were perjury!" emphasizes the moral conflict within the speaker. The speaker acknowledges that going against divine will constitutes a betrayal of their faith and a falsehood.

Themes

  • Faith and Doubt: The poem explores the speaker's oscillation between faith and doubt in their relationship with the silent king. Moments of seeking divine guidance are juxtaposed with moments of rebellion and uncertainty, highlighting the human struggle to maintain unwavering faith.
  • Human Nature and Divine Will: The poem delves into the tension between human will and divine will. The speaker grapples with the desire to follow their own desires and the recognition that divine obedience is essential for spiritual fulfillment.
  • Seeking Connection: The speaker's yearning for connection with the silent king reflects a universal human desire for a deeper spiritual relationship and guidance.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Curiosity and Wonder: The speaker approaches their relationship with the silent king with curiosity and wonder, seeking to understand their role and connection.
  • Doubt and Uncertainty: The poem conveys the speaker's moments of doubt and uncertainty about their faith and the divine presence.
  • Rebellion and Obedience: The poem captures the conflicting emotions of rebellion against divine will and the recognition of the importance of obedience to it.

Literary Devices

  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery of drums, shouts, and bells to convey the contrasting emotions and experiences associated with seeking divine connection and going against divine will.
  • Contrast: The poem contrasts the emotions and experiences of seeking divine guidance with those of rebelling against it, creating a dynamic tension in the narrative.

Discussion Question

How does the speaker's portrayal of the silent king reflect their own internal struggles with faith, doubt, and personal desires? How does the poem explore the theme of human will versus divine will?

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