This Heart That Broke So Long, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"THIS HEART THAT BROKE SO LONG" by Emily Dickinson reflects on the endurance of a heart that has experienced prolonged pain and suffering. The poem explores themes of heartbreak, resilience, and the lasting impact of tender emotions. Through its vivid imagery and metaphors, the poem portrays the heart's strength and vulnerability, as well as the inability of time or circumstances to fully erase the emotions and experiences it holds.


This heart that broke so long —
These feet that never flagged —
This faith that watched for star in vain,
Give gently to the dead —

Hound cannot overtake the Hare
That fluttered panting, here —
Nor any schoolboy rob the nest
Tenderness builded there.


"THIS HEART THAT BROKE SO LONG" contemplates a heart that has endured a prolonged period of heartbreak and sorrow. The poem speaks to the strength and resilience of the heart despite its pain, as well as the faith it held onto despite not finding the hoped-for resolution. The heart is likened to a hound pursuing a hare or a schoolboy robbing a nest, implying that the heart's experiences and emotions are uncatchable and inviolable. Ultimately, the poem suggests that the heart's tenderness remains, even in the face of challenges and time.

Critical Analysis

The poem opens with an acknowledgment of the heart's endurance, having "broke so long." This line conveys the idea of prolonged suffering and heartbreak.

The next lines introduce the notion of feet that have never flagged, implying that despite the difficulties faced, the individual has persisted without giving up.

The third line refers to a faith that watched for a star in vain, indicating that the person held onto hope or faith despite not finding the desired outcome.

The phrase "Give gently to the dead" suggests a release of emotions, possibly implying that the heart's struggles can now find peace.

The second stanza uses metaphorical language to emphasize the heart's uncatchable nature. The hound pursuing the hare represents the relentless pursuit of emotions, while the schoolboy robbing the nest symbolizes the attempt to take away tender emotions that have been built up over time.


  • Endurance: The poem explores the theme of endurance in the face of heartbreak and challenges. The heart and feet symbolize the individual's ability to persist despite pain and adversity.
  • Tender Emotions: The poem reflects on the lasting impact of tender emotions, suggesting that they are built up over time and remain inviolable.
  • Resilience: The poem portrays the heart's resilience and strength, even in the midst of prolonged suffering.


  • Heartbreak and Sorrow: The poem conveys a sense of heartbreak and sorrow that has been experienced for a long time.
  • Enduring Faith: The mention of watching for a star in vain suggests a faith that persisted even when the desired outcome was not achieved.
  • Tenderness and Resilience: The poem portrays the combination of tenderness and resilience in the heart's experiences and emotions.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The poem uses metaphors to compare the heart's endurance to a hound chasing a hare and the attempt to take away tender emotions to a schoolboy robbing a nest.

Discussion Question

How does Emily Dickinson use metaphor and imagery in "THIS HEART THAT BROKE SO LONG" to convey the enduring nature of heartbreak, the resilience of the heart, and the lasting impact of tender emotions?

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