Our Lives Are Swiss, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"OUR LIVES ARE SWISS" by Emily Dickinson presents a contemplation on life's serenity and the sudden revelations that can disrupt its tranquility. The poem utilizes the imagery of the Swiss Alps to explore the idea of a calm existence unexpectedly interrupted by the allure of distant lands.


Our lives are Swiss —
So still — so Cool —
Till some odd afternoon
The Alps neglect their Curtains
And we look farther on!
Italy stands the other side!
While like a guard between —
The solemn Alps —
The siren Alps
Forever intervene!


"OUR LIVES ARE SWISS" explores the peaceful and uneventful nature of human existence, likened to the calmness of Switzerland. However, the poem hints at the possibility of unexpected disruptions that draw one's attention beyond their current circumstances, such as the allure of Italy on the other side of the Alps. The "siren Alps" symbolize the captivating allure of distant lands that forever come between the calmness of the present and the lure of the unknown.

Critical Analysis

The poem "OUR LIVES ARE SWISS" juxtaposes the tranquil nature of life with the potential for sudden disruptions. The comparison of life to the calm and cool nature of Switzerland suggests an existence characterized by serenity and stillness.

The phrase "Till some odd afternoon" signals a moment of unexpected change or revelation. The imagery of the "Alps neglect[ing] their Curtains" conveys the idea of barriers being lifted, allowing a glimpse of something beyond the immediate surroundings.

The mention of Italy on the other side of the Alps represents the allure of new experiences and the unknown. This could metaphorically suggest the allure of change, growth, or adventure that can draw individuals away from their familiar routines.

The "siren Alps" serve as a symbolic representation of the irresistible and alluring call of distant places or opportunities. The term "siren" emphasizes the seductive nature of the allure.


  • Tranquility and Disruption: The poem explores the theme of tranquility in life's routine and the potential for disruptions that draw one's attention to new horizons.
  • Curiosity and Longing: The reference to Italy on the other side of the Alps signifies a longing for exploration and the allure of the unknown, highlighting human curiosity and the desire for novelty.
  • Contrast and Ambiguity: The contrast between the stillness of Swiss life and the allure of distant lands creates a sense of tension and ambiguity in the poem.


  • Serenity: The initial depiction of life as "still" and "cool" conveys a sense of peacefulness and contentment.
  • Curiosity: The poem suggests a curiosity about what lies beyond the immediate surroundings and a willingness to embrace new experiences.
  • Intrigue: The term "siren Alps" suggests an element of fascination and intrigue in the allure of distant places.


  • Imagery: The use of imagery related to the Swiss Alps and Italy creates a vivid mental landscape that reflects the contrasting themes of the poem.
  • Symbolism: The Alps and Italy symbolize the contrasting aspects of routine and adventure, while the "siren Alps" symbolize the captivating pull of the unknown.

Consider the interplay between the calmness of routine and the allure of the unknown in your own life. How do unexpected disruptions and the call of new opportunities shape your perspectives and choices? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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