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I cannot live with you Questions Answers Pdf

I cannot live with you Questions Answers Marks 2/5/10/15 Pdf

1. Q. Discuss the significant themes present in Dickinson’s poem ‘I cannot live with you.[I Cannot live with you]

Dickinson’s poem ‘I cannot live with you is a critique of the traditional paradigm for human life set forth by Christianity. By means of the metaphor of a love relationship, the speaker delineates the inadequacy of this paradigm as a model for human existence and affirms a superior, individual definition of “Life.” What first appears in the poem to be a renunciation of love becomes, in fact, a renunciation of those ways of viewing life that interfere with the higher vision of the lovers.

The speaker renounces those definitions of life which do not provide “Sustenance.” “Life” that is susceptible to decay, mutability, and-more important-the authority of others (the “Sexton,” the “Housewife,” “They,” or God Himself) is life that can be and needs to be “Discarded.” The speaker, from the beginning, implies that the two lovers can create a different kind of life that is not perishable-an eternal life: “A newer Sevres pleases.” Similarly, power over death is appropriated by the lovers. If, as the speaker metaphorically asserts, to die is to have one’s sight “freeze,” then the lovers will be looking at each other so steadfastly that only they can stop the gaze of each other, only they can bring about death.

The speaker goes on to eradicate the possibility of traditional resurrection when she says, in effect, that her beloved is brighter, more enlightening, and more of a “sun” to her “Eye” than Jesus: Her lover, in other words, is the source of true vision. Furthermore, the speaker argues, trying to fit into this traditional paradigm only makes the lovers vulnerable to the judgments of others. Once her beloved becomes vision itself-“You saturated Sight”-she is blinded and unable to perceive lesser, “sordid” things such as “Paradise.” Both lovers thus are freed to develop their own

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criteria for damnation and salvation: To be together is to be “saved,” to be apart is “Hell.”

In the final stanza, the speaker arrives at the conclusion that the poem has been building up to: Because the traditional paradigm available to the lovers for expressing life, love, salvation, vision, and eternity does not work, they “must meet apart.”

“I cannot live with You” (640) is probably her most popular poem of this kind. This painful and tense poem is grammatically difficult and deserves more space than we can give it. Careful study of its images, progression, and grammar would be a valuable exercise in understanding Dickinson’s poetic techniques. The speaker addresses a beloved man from whom she is permanently separated in life. To live with him would be life, she says, implying that she is dead without him.

Paradoxically, the only life together possible for them will be when they are in the grave. Two stanzas representing the dead as broken chinaware poignantly and reluctantly praise death over the apparent wholeness of life. In the third stanza, the speaker imagines death scenes in which she would prefer to comfort her dying lover rather than to die with him. She is also reluctant to die with him because that would give her the horrible shock of seeing her lover eclipse Jesus and dim heaven itself. The lover is like God, and love is superior to heaven Oust as Dickinson can find the artist’s heaven superior to God’s).

For two stanzas, beginning with “They’d judge Us-How,” the speaker’s attention moves to the unconventional nature of her love. People, perhaps representing God, would condemn the lovers for breaking some social or ethical tradition. Perhaps the lover is married, a minister, or both, or perhaps the service of heaven is a more general stewardship. The speaker’s desperation now threatens the poem’s coherence. The fact that the lover saturates her sight (echoing the eclipse of Jesus’ face) makes her not care about heaven and its values.

Furthermore (perhaps), his being lost (damned) would make her glad to give up her salvation in order to share his fate, and were he saved, any possible separation would be, for her, the same thing as hell. The last stanza does not connect logically to what precedes it. The poem seems to return to the world of the living, and it seems to be saying that the lovers’ complicated prospects and perhaps their shocking unconventionality make the future so uncertain that they can depend on only the small sustenance of their present narrow communication and tortured hopes. The short lines and abruptly rocking movement of the poem echo their struggles.

The resignation seen in “I cannot live with You’ here turns into a prelude to a triumph beyond death for a love that could not succeed on earth. This poem presents a more visual scene than both “I cannot live with You” and “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun,” but it is still clearly an allegorical scene, and there is no reason to assume that Emily Dickinson ever had an experience like the one it presents.

 

2. Q. Justify the title of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘I cannot live with you.

“I cannot live with You” (the title is not Emily Dickinson’s, since she did not title her poems) is a poem of fifty lines divided into eleven four-line stanzas and a concluding twelfth stanza of six lines. The poem is an unusually long poem for Dickinson. It is written in the first person from the point of view of a speaker addressing a lover.

Structurally, the poem is a list of things the speaker and her lover cannot do together and the reasons why they cannot. In the first three stanzas, the speaker announces to her beloved that she cannot “live” with the person because of the nature of “Life” itself. Life as it is ordinarily conceived of by those who deal with it daily on its most basic levels-the “Housewife” and the “Sexton” who locks up and unlocks (“keeps the Key to’) both earthly possessions and the graveyard-is something subject to decay: It can “crack” and be “Discarded.”

The speaker goes on to assert in the fourth and fifth stanzas that neither could she “die” with her beloved, because one of them would have to remain alive in order to close the other’s eyes (“For One must wait/ To shut the Other’s Gaze down”). The speaker asserts further that logically it would be impossible for her both to “see” the beloved die (“freeze”) and to be dead at the same time (to have her “Right of Frost”).

In the sixth and seventh stanzas, the speaker explains why she could not “rise,” or be resurrected, with her beloved. Her reason is that resurrection to the “New Grace” of Jesus requires placing Jesus at the center of one’s life, acknowledging him to be, metaphorically, the brightest sun. The speaker’s “homesick Eye,” however, is focused on her beloved: “Because Your Face/ Would put out Jesus”.”

The beloved not only is more central than Jesus to the speaker’s life but also entirely blots out the face of Jesus. The eighth and ninth stanzas then predict the inevitable judgment that would be brought about by the speaker’s blasphemy. The speaker’s only defense, however, is a reiteration of her blasphemy: Her beloved “saturated” her “Sight” so completely that she could no longer see (“had no more Eyes/ For”) more shadowy, “sordid” types of “excellence” such as God’s “Paradise.”

In the tenth and eleventh stanzas, the speaker cites further difficulties that could arise should the two lovers be resurrected and judged together: One of them could be damned and the other saved. Regardless, the speaker insists, her own “self” would be a “Hell” to her if she were separated from her lover. It is these reasons – that lead to the conclusion of the final and longest stanza: “So We must meet apart.” Since the two lovers cannot be together, they can only be with each other by being apart and sustaining themselves with the only things they share: distance and “Despair.”

This is a poem about a couple’s hopeless love story. The tone of the poem is despair and pain. The speaker here addresses her lover offering every possible outcome of a union between the two of them, and claiming that all would end in

despair. The poem starts with a sense of impossibility. It can be divided into five parts – why they cannot live together, why they cannot die together, why cannot they rise together, why cannot they fall together, and the final utterance of impossibility.

The poem can also be analysed as based on religion. Sexton, Jesus, Heaven, Paradise are all religious references. Besides all these facts, the poem is all about how and why cannot the speaker live or die with her beloved. So the title is completely significant and justified.

 

3. Q. Comment on the structure of the poem ‘I cannot live with you.

 

“I Cannot Live With You’ is one of Emily Dickinson’s great love poems, close in form to the poetic argument of a classic Shakespearean sonnet.1 The poem shares the logical sensibility of the metaphysical poets whom she admired, advancing her thoughts about her lover, slowly, from the first declaration to the inevitable devastating conclusion.

However, unlike most sonnet arguments or “carpe diem” poems, this poem seems designed to argue against love. The poem can be broken down into five parts. The first explains why she cannot live with the object of her love, the second why she cannot die with him, the third why she cannot rise with him, the fourth why she cannot fall with him, and the final utterance of impossibility. The poem begins with a sense of impossibility:

I cannot live with You – It would be Life –

A newer Sevres pleases – Old Ones crack

Moving from the abstraction of the first four lines, the second and third stanzas enter into the domestic metaphor of china, which is described variously as discarded, broken, quaint, and cracked, put up on the shelf and forgotten. If life is “behind the shelf,” it is completely outside the experience of the china, as is the speaker’s life. The power of the first line is temporarily muted, and the reader is similarly trapped inside a haunting verse of cups and shelves, eerie in their quietness. That the china is locked away by the sexton, a representative of the official or practical face of religiosity, seems to imply that it is not only the domestic sphere that the speaker is trapped in, but also the binds of the church, or at least the administrative daily function of the church, which Dickinson viewed as being quite separate from the passion behind it.

The lines themselves alternate between long and short, and the disparity between the lines becomes more dramatic in the second and third stanzas. The delicate, halting, “cracked” lines that describe the china seem physically overwhelmed by the

lines about the housewife or sexton. Between the second and third stanzas, the enjambment (pausing on “cup”) compounded with the dash, which emphasizes the pause and line break, allows life to be hopefully like a “cup” for the fraction of a second it takes the reader to make it to the next line, where it is discarded “of the housewife.” This line reads as both “The housewife discards the cup” and also “the Sexton puts away the cup discarded by the housewife,” as if what is not good enough for marriage is good enough for the church. “Quaint,” incidentally, is a word that Dickinson used to describe herself in letters, when writing about her reclusiveness; “half-cracked” is a word that T. H. Higginson, her poetic correspondent, used to describe her.

In the second part of the poem, Dickinson imagines that the alternative to living with someone is dying with them, but that also has been denied to her: I could not die – with You –

Without my Right of Frost – Death’s privilege?

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These stanzas express not only the fact that if she cannot live with her love she is dead, but also that the “with” is taken from her-she can die, but not with him because death is necessarily a private act. First she argues that she must wait to “shut the Other’s Gaze down,” which might literally mean to close his eyes, but also the word “Gaze” implies that there is something sustaining about the act of looking upon another with love; it is that which creates life, and it must be actively shut down for death to occur. She imagines that he would not be strong enough to do that for her. Her second argument within this section is that, upon his death, denied the “Right of Frost,” she would long for death.

In the third section of the poem, Dickinson imagines the final judgment, and how it might be overwhelmed by her earthly love: nivo M

Nor could I rise – with You – Because Your Face Would put out Jesus’

For sordid excellence As Paradise

She is unable to see or experience paradise because she is so consumed wit her vision of him-not only does his face “put out” the face of Jesus like a candle but he “saturated her sight” so much in life that she is unable to “see” paradise meaning, perhaps that he distracted her from piety. The speaker’s experience in th poem is deeply linked to sight, and suggests that that which cannot be seen cann be experienced. In the stanza beginning “They’d judge us,” there is a comple breakdown of rhyme; when she writes “I could not,” she does not rhyme, and t

faltering echoes the broken fragility of the first lines. The pairing of “sordid excellence” is both a metaphysical touch and a characteristic Dickinson moment of transforming an abstraction into its opposite with an oddly chosen adjective.

In the fourth section of the poem, the speaker describes why she cannot be in hell with her lover. Just as she cannot see heaven because his face obscures her view, her perspective of hell is confined to being without him. If she were saved and he were lost, then she would be in hell without him, and if they were both saved, but saved apart, then that would also be hell. In admirable pursuit of the conclusion of this radical argument, which has grown ever more impossible as she chases it, she passionately refuses to believe that there is an alternative where they are both saved together or both condemned.

The final stanza acts structurally like the final couplet of a sonnet, finishing the argument, but leaving a question for the reader to consider:

So We must meet apart – You there – I – here –

With just the Door ajar

That Oceans are and Prayer –

And that White Sustenance –

Despair

In the line “You there – I – here” we can see a perfect example of how the poet’s dashes work to hold

the words and ideas of “you” and “I” apart. As in a sonnet, the rhyme scheme tightens up quite a bit in this final section. Dickinson internally rhymes “are” with “ajar,” half-rhymes “apart” and “ajar,” “despair” with “there,” “here” and “prayer,” then closes up the stanza in rhyme. It is as if she intends the final rhyme to show the perfection of her argument in the poem’s conclusion. Additionally, those four words that she rhymes quite eloquently express the problem itself, with prayer standing in for its close synonym, hope. The intricacy of the rhyme leaves “sustenance” as unrhymed, underscoring that “White Sustenance” does not nourish. Incidentally, early publications of the poem replaced “white” with “pale” as if softening the conclusion that she reaches by modifying the degree of her language; “pale sustenance” seems somehow more sustaining.

However, even as she closes the argument, it opens up a little, because in this despair she has found a kind of sustenance, however undernourishment it is. There is something holy about this kind of despair, and “white” seems also to be “heavenly,” as if in losing her hope for the afterlife, she has found a new earthly devotion to replace it, and then elevated it to celestial levels. This stanza is notably the first time she uses the word “We,” capitalized for emphasis, and creates a paradox where “meet apart” seems possible, or at least more possible than any of the other alternatives she has rejected throughout the poem. She claims that the door is just “ajar” but then compares it to oceans, making “ajar” as wide open as the earth itself, and then linking it to prayer, or hope.

 

In this amazingly deft bit of wordplay, Dickinson reverses everything as she’s saying it-the lovers are apart but meeting; the door is ajar, like an ocean; and the speaker is somehow sustained by despair. In a final touch, she ends the poem with an elongated endstop, printed as a dash, and whether it is meant to be “ajar” or more definitively shut is as unanswerable as the final question of the poem.

4. Q. Discuss the subject of Dickinson’s poem ‘I cannot live with you.

Or,

Q. What type of love is the subject of the poem? Discuss elaborately.

One of Emily Dickinson’s famous love poems, “I cannot live with you,” expresses a variety of reasons why they are unable to live a life together. In the first three stanzas of her poem, she puts an emphasis on the word life. She strongly uses the word “life” because life is full of rules and complications that keep us from expressing our freedom and creativity. She expresses that if they wanted to be together in life, they would have to surrender their passion of expression, which would defeat the purpose of life.

Furthermore, in the second stanza, a Sexton is defined as, “an officer of a church who is responsible for the care and upkeep of church property and sometimes for ringing bells and digging graves,” (dictionary.com). She expresses a “sexton” as a criminal because he maintains a strong value in religion, by keeping her away from the man she loves by being devoted to God.

At the end of the second stanza to the beginning of the third stanza, she compares the porcelain cup to her delicate heart. Emily Dickinson expresses the cup as being broken which means that she could also end up feeling hurt when her heart is shattered. The cup, made out of porcelain is compared to love because of the one similarity they share, which is beauty. She expresses that her heart is fragile, but love is one of the greatest feelings in life shared between two people.

Continuing to the fourth and fifth stanzas, Emily Dickinson expresses that dying together would be impossible to accomplish. When Dickinson says, “I could not diewith You-For One must wait,” (pg. 1307, Dickinson), she explains that one has to wait to die, while their significant other has passed away. In the same stanza, Dickinson says, “To shut the Other’s Gaze down, You-could-Not,” expressing that when it is here time to die, the one she loves would not be there to wait for her. Alternatively, a message is conveyed that once the person they have loved has died, they believe that there is no purpose to live any longer.

Following the next two stanzas (six and seven), Dickinson also expresses that life after death is unattainable. When she says, “Because Your Face Would put out Jesus’-,” (pg. 1307, Dickinson), she shows through her message that her loved one comes before Jesus. Emily Dickinson expresses her importance for her man and that

his face would ove power Jesus. If Jesus comes after the one she loves, this showed that religion was not an important factor in her life.

Moving along to stanzas, eight through eleven, Emily Dickinson puts across that if she was separated away from him, she believed that it would be “hell.” She can picture him being saved because he had served God, and she would be “condemned” because she had not served God, and put him last, therefore she would not be saved. Furthermore, in stanza nine, it is said, “Because You are saturated Sight-And I had no more eyes,” expresses that she has a spot engraved in his life, since he is the only one that she cares for. She sees no one else, but him.

Consequently, she could care less about earthly desires, which is mentioned as “paradise.” It is expressed that paradise is “sordid,” meaning that Paradise is unpleasant parallel with the happiness of her relationship to the one she loves. Moreover, “Paradise” is seen as heaven, but she will not acknowledge the idea of heaven if her loved one is not with her.

Lastly, in the very last stanza, “So we must meet apart,” is expressed that the only thing they can do is be away from each other. When Dickinson says, “With just the doors ajar,” (pg. 1308, Dickinson), it said that doors are meant to be partly open. With the door being partly open, it symbolizes that hope did not vanish away, but the fact that it is still there. Moreover, “oceans” are expressed for them to be physically apart. Thus, the poem is ended with “despair,” meaning that she will not be able to find an answer for them to be together again.

Furthermore, throughout all her poems, the use of commas is nonexistent, but is replaced with dashes. It is said that Dickinson may have used dashes to show the reader a stress to certain words and phrases. In this poem, the dashes could represent her distance between her and her loved one. One example of dashes representing their distance would be in the last stanza when she said “You there-Ihere.” With dashes, it has placed an emphasis on the reasons why they are unable to live with each other.

In Emily Dickinson’s poem, her experience comes to life with the use of imagery. The objects she uses which were the cup, the shelf, Jesus, the Sexton, and the door, all express her thoughts and feelings from a broken heart to a partly opened door with some kind of hope. All in all, Dickinson shows in this poem that she has no choice but to be feeling lonely and discontented without her loved one in her life.

Taken as a whole, when reading Dickinson’s poem “I cannot live with You,” it left a feeling of isolation, a sense of loneliness and separation from her loved one. There were various ideas conveyed in the poem alone: life, death, religion, to become alive again, and despair. Her poem is like the cycle of death and life after death, conveying the idea that she is left with fear because there is no hope or way for them to be in this world together.

5.Q. Think about Dickinson’s tone. Does she seem to be writing for other people or only for herself? How might she universalize private feelings?

Or,

Q. Comment on the poetic style of Dickinson with reference to the poem ‘I cannot live with you.

Emily Dickinson wrote close to 1800 poems in her lifetime. Her poems are often extremely short, waste no words, and subvert the traditional forms of the day. She is also fond of the dash as a tool to signify a pause or provide emphasis. Her poems, though short, are usually complex in theme, form, and execution, and are often impossible to paraphrase. She deals with themes of death, faith, nature, love, as well as the difficulty of finding truth, fame, and grief, throughout this massive collection.

Dickinson published only seven poems in her lifetime, and these were all done anonymously, and often were heavily edited. When it became clear she would not ever be published widely, she bound her poems into her own collections. These her sister Lavinia found upon her death, and, recognizing their brilliance, she turned to her brother Austin’s mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd, who was well-connected, for help publishing them.

Although they faced rejection at first, a first volume of Dickinson’s poems was published in 1890, and although some critics responded unfavorably to her subversion of the period’s strict conventions of rhyme and meter, the collection proved quite successful and created a great stir, leading to a second volume being published the next year, her letters in 1894, and a third volume of poetry in 1896. Since then, Dickinson has earned a permanent place as a great American poet, whose poetry seemed to foretell the modernism that wouldn’t arrive for over one hundred years. 11

While the poem is regularly read in dramatic context as the harmony and discord of romantic union or as an account of impossibilities in reaching that union, its prismatic depths portray an inner dynamic. Once we are shown the Self as a space, a space which is both whole and holds multiple conceptions of Self in dialogic accord- no one reigning but still striving for unity – we might, in the poem, reach this more interior conclusion. Although the pose of the poem is ostensibly one of argument, one which begins and ends in the emphatic present, it does not take on the task of exact proof. –

Instead, it is more the bulwark of an argument, a series of parallel propositions, each postulation found in turn to preclude connection between the two “souls” of the poem despite an exhaustive attempt to outwit impossibility. This simultaneous attraction and refused solution exists within the poem’s thesis: I cannot live with you So we must meet apart. If the posture of the first clause is one of negation, its impact is one of intended connection, of living with you; and if the imperative of the second seems to affirm, its impact is negative: we are in compulsive separation. Whereas the initial declaration “I cannot live with you” seems immobile and inarguable, it is presented as a modal. It holds possibility even as it expresses prohibition.

In fact the whole poem uses modal construction to build its arc suggestively rather than causally. The modal as auxiliary inflicts the verb but does not eclipse it. A distance arises between the present state and things as they might be otherwise, but as it amplifies possibility, each phrase contains, in the root of the verb, fulfillment. In providing the hypothetical, a modal proposes another possible place, where – in living or dying or rising. a pair of persons or of selves might reside together. When it shows another potential world, it cannot suggest to stop at one alternative or be exclusive: meeting and parting are both suggested in the infinity. –

200 In Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I cannot live with You,” the speaker explores the reasons by which a relationship with the man she loves would result in utter failure. She proves herself with four assertions: she cannot live with him, die with him, go to heaven, nor hell with him. The speaker introduces Life as tangible, stating it remains “behind the shelf.” The capitalization of Life expresses its importance to her, lending tragedy at her inability to obtain it. The Sexton’s possession of the key to the shelf presents both religious and morbid imagery. The Sexton can be viewed as the church, exhibiting Dickinson’s distaste towards the excessive amount that orthodox religion controls one’s life.

From another perspective, a Sexton once had the job of grave digging. In this way, the speaker feels that she has already died, leaving the Sexton responsible for her life-the cup. The metaphor of her life as fragile China shows that she will become “Quaint” or “Broke” to the man, therefore creating a future in which he will abandon her for another woman. However, the use of porcelain to describe the speaker and the man’s Jife together brings about an image of a beautiful and valuable relationship.

Dickinson employs dashes, slant rhymes, and romanticized diction in order to bring attention to critical aspects of her speaker’s argument. In stanzas four and six, the dashes around the phrase “-with You-” not only physically separates the man but ht also emphasizes his role in her struggles. In stanza five, she plays on both words and dashes in the phrase “And see You -freeze-,” by poetically freezing the word freeze in its line. The words, “glow plain” and “shone closer,” illustrate eaven as light-filled, which, if the two were together, her lover would distract from as she indulges excessively in him.

The slant rhyme in stanza nine between “eyes” and “paradise” di draws the reader to the idea presented by the speaker in that stanza: the presence of the man engrossed the speaker so much that her eyes favor her lover over her faith. In the tragic finale, the speaker acknowledges herself and her lover as “We,” for the first time in the entire poem. This acknowledgment signifies an admission of a connection between herself and the man, rather than referring to them as “you” and “I.” However, the speaker recognizes the impossibility of their union and returns to the use of separate pronouns in the next line.

Dickinson physically divides “You” and “I” with dashes in order to demonstrate an absolute distance between the pair. Dickinson boasts her talent in vague meanings in the contradiction between the speaker’s claim that the door is ajar, implying a closeness between her and the man, yet also stating that an ocean lies between them. The one word line which ends the poem provides an air of finality and conclusiveness, giving a strong emotional evidence as to why the relationship would never succeed.

The beginning declaration is that these two – “I” and “You” – cannot reside in a single place. That place “would be Life” as figured in a cup, though the cup is pushed for size and cracked.17 I cannot live with You – It would be Life – And Life is over there – Behind the Shelf The Sexton keeps the key to – Putting up Our Life – His Porcelain – Like a Cup – Discarded of the Housewife – Quaint-or Broke – A newer Sevres pleases – Old Ones crack- (1640/Fr706)

The “I” and “You” are each other’s harmonic and each other’s rejoinder.20 If these states seem irresolvable in their opposition, the speculations of the conditional and subjunctive tenses of the poem propose a space within which they might both reside. “One need not be a chamber to be haunted” describes the interior of Self as space able to contain inequities, doublings, and single elements which themselves exceed the Self’s realm. “I cannot live with you” finds those same qualities in a space it calls “our Life.” In this context where “I” and “You” are at once separate aspects and indiscriminate, the edicts I cannot live with you So we must meet apart – that first seem to apply to two individual beings, could also refer to contradicting intentions or the interior refractions that exists within us, between ourself and our assassin, between myself condemned and mine who seeks salvation.

6. Q. Think about Dickinson’s descriptions of nature, such as in “A Bird came down the Walk” and “A narrow Fellow in the Grass.” What techniques does she use to create her indelible images? What makes poems such as these memorable despite their thematic simplicity?

Or,

Q. Discuss the imagery in the poem ‘I cannot live with you as portrayed by Emily Dickinson.

In “I Cannot Live with You,” which was published in 1890, the speaker talks to her lover. This is a poem about a couple’s hopeless love story. It may relate to Dickinson’s real life since she did have a relationship with a man. Although it was never presented as more than a friendship, she did have a profound connection with someone and after he left, Dickinson went on to live in almost complete isolation and she never married. The speaker gave up the best life she could have had because she wanted her lover to have the best life, since he died before her, and now, she cannot be with him ever again. She thinks she cannot be with him even in the hereafter, but this causes her to want to die, although she knows this will not solve her emotions.

Dickinson uses quite powerful imagery to get her point across. One line, “I cannot die with you, for one must wait to shut the others’ gaze down” shows that she is the only one who can shut his eyes, he cannot shut hers. However, once he passes away, she can no longer live. So, they cannot die together. Another line, “And were you saved. And I condemned you to be where you were not, that self were hell to me,” explains that Dickinson wants the readers to picture a strong woman who whole-heartedly believes in Christ.

However, Dickinson tells the readers that if the speaker were saved and her lover was lost, she would be lost in hell without him, and if they were both saved but saved separately, then that would also mean hell for her. This is why her lover cannot live in hell with her.

“I cannot live with You”, by Emily Dickinson, is an emotional poem in which she shares her experiences and thoughts on death and love. Some critics believe that she has written about her struggle with death and her desire to have a relationship with a man whose vocation was ministerial, Reverend Charles Wadsworth. She considers suicide as an option for relieving the pain she endures, but decides against it. The narrator, more than likely Emily herself, realizes that death will leave her even further away from the one that she loves. There is a possibility that they will never be together again.

“Arguing with herself, Dickinson considers three major resolutions for the frustrations she is seeking to define and to resolve. Each of these resolutions is expressed in negative form: living with her lover, dying with him, and discovering a world beyond nature. Building on this series of negations, Dickinson advances a catalogue of reasons for her covenant with despair, which are both final and insufficient. Throughout, she excoriates the social and religious authorities that impede her union, but she remains emotionally unconvinced that she has correctly identified her antagonists.”

Dickinson begins her poem by saying that she cannot live with her lover because their life together is an object that can only be opened with a key. The Sexton, or church officer in charge of the maintenance of church property, keeps the key. The reverends involvement with God and with a woman at the same time is like a porcelain cup that is easily broken. This is an example of Personification. Life is personified as this old cup which is valuable until a new, better one is available.

Sensory images are used to develop an interest for the reader and a way of showing what the author felt. An example is in the fifth stanza, “And see You freeze / Without my Right of Frost”. The sense of touch is used when she says that one who is dead is frozen.

“I Cannot Live With You” is one of Emily Dickinson’s great love poems, close in

form to the poetic argument of a classic Shakespearean sonnet.2 The poem shares the logical sensibility of the metaphysical poets whom she admired, advancing her thoughts about her lover, slowly, from the first declaration to the inevitable devastating conclusion. However, unlike most sonnet arguments or “carpe diem” poems, this poem seems designed to argue against love. The poem can be broken down into five parts.

The first explains why she cannot live with her love object, the second why she cannot die with him, the third why she cannot rise with him, the fourth why she cannot fall with him, and the final utterance of impossibility. The poem begins with a sense of impossibility: I cannot live with You – It would be Life – And Life is over there – Behind the Shelf The Sexton keeps the Key to – Putting up Our Life – His porcelain – Like a Cup – Discarded of the Housewife – Quaint – or Broke – A newer Sevres pleases – Old Ones crack –

Moving from the abstraction of the first four lines, the second and third stanzas enter into the domestic metaphor of china, which is described variously as discarded broken, quaint, and cracked, put up on the shelf and forgotten. If life is “behind the shelf,” it is completely outside the experience of the china, as is the speaker’s life. The power of the first line is temporarily muted, and the reader is similarly trapped inside a haunting verse of cups and shelves, eerie in their quietness. That the china is locked away by the Sexton, a representative of the official or practical face of religiosity, seems to imply that it is not only the domestic sphere that the speaker is trapped in, but also the binds of the church, or at least the administrative daily function of the church, which Dickinson viewed as being quite separate from the passion behind it.

The lines themselves alternate between long and short, and the disparity between the lines becomes more dramatic in the second and third stanzas. The delicate, halting, “cracked” lines that describe the china seem physically overwhelmed by the lines about the housewife or Sexton. Between the second and third stanzas, the enjambment (pausing on “cup”) compounded with the dash, which emphasizes the pause and line break, allows life to be hopefully like a “cup” for the fraction of a second it takes the reader to make it to the next line, where it is discarded “of the housewife.” This line reads as both “The housewife discards the cup” and also “the Sexton puts away the cup discarded by the housewife,” as if what is not good enough. for marriage is good enough for the church. “Quaint,” incidentally, is a word that Dickinson used to describe herself in letters, when writing about her reclusiveness; “half-cracked” is a word that T. H. Higginson, her poetic correspondent, used to describe her.

In the second part of the poem, Dickinson imagines that the alternative to living with someone is dying with them, but that also has been denied to her: I could not die with You – For One must wait To shut the Other’s Gaze down – You – could not – And I Could I stand by And see You – freeze – Without my Right of Frost –

– Death’s privilege?

These stanzas express not only the fact that if she cannot live with her love she is dead, but also that the “with” is taken from her-she can die, but not with him because death is necessarily a private act. First she argues that she must wait to “shut the Other’s Gaze down,” which might literally mean to close his eyes, but also the word “Gaze” implies that there is something sustaining about the act of looking upon another with love; it is that which creates life, and it must be actively shut down for death to occur. She imagines that he would not be strong enough to do that for her. Her second argument within this section is that, upon his death, denied the “Right of Frost,” she would long for death.

In the third section of the poem, Dickinson imagines the final judgment, and how it might be overwhelmed by her earthly love: Nor could I rise – with You – Because Your Face Would put out Jesus’ – That New Grace Glow plain – and foreign On my homesick Eye – Except that You than He Shone closer by – They’d judge Us – How – For You – served Heaven – You know, Or sought to – I could not – Because You saturated Sight – And I had not more Eyes For sordid excellence As Paradise.

She is unable to see or experience paradise because she is so consumed with her vision of him-not only does his face “put out” the face of Jesus like a candle, but he “saturated her sight” so much in life that she is unable to “see” paradise, meaning, perhaps that he distracted her from piety. The speaker’s experience in this poem is deeply linked to sight, and suggests that that which cannot be seen cannot be experienced. In the stanza beginning “They’d judge us,” there is a complete breakdown of rhyme; when she writes “I could not” she does not rhyme, and the faltering echoes the broken fragility of the first lines. The pairing of “sordid excellence” is both a metaphysical touch, and a characteristic Dickinson moment of transforming an abstraction into its opposite with an oddly chosen adjective.

In the fourth section of the poem, the speaker describes why she cannot be in hell with her lover: And were You lost, I would be – Though My Name Rang loudest On the Heavenly fame – And were You – saved – And I – condemned to be Where You were not – That self – were Hell to Me

Just as she cannot see heaven because his face obscures her view, her perspective of hell is confined to being without him. If she were saved and he were lost, then she would be in hell without him, and if they were both saved, but saved apart, then that would also be hell. In admirable pursuit of the conclusion of this radical argument, which has grown ever more impossible as she chases it, she passionately refuses to believe that there is an alternative where they are both saved together or both condemned.

The final stanza acts structurally like the final couplet of a sonnet, finishing the argument, but leaving a question for the reader to consider: So We must meet apart – You there – I – here – With just the Door ajar That Oceans are and Prayer

And that White Sustenance – Despair – In the line “You there – I – here” we can see a perfect example of how the poet’s dashes work to hold the words, and ideas, of “you” and “I” apart.

As in a sonnet, the rhyme scheme tightens up quite a bit in this final section Dickinson internally rhymes “are” with “ajar,” half-rhyming “apart” and “ajar,” “despair” with “there,” “here” and “prayer,” then closing up the stanza in rhyme. It is as if she intends the final rhyme to show the perfection of her argument in the poem’s conclusion. Additionally, those four words that she rhymes quite eloquently express the problem itself, with prayer standing in for its close synonym, hope. The intricacy of the rhyme leaves “sustenance” as unrhymed, underscoring that “White Sustenance” does not nourish. Incidentally, early publications of the poem replaced “white” with “pale” as if softening the conclusion that she reaches by modifying the degree of her language; pale sustenance seems somehow more sustaining. 61 100

However, even as she closes the argument, it opens up a little, because in this despair she has found a kind of sustenance, however undernourishment it is. There is something holy about this kind of despair, and “white” seems also to be “heavenly,” as if in losing her hope for the afterlife, she has found a new earthly devotion to replace it, and then elevated it to celestial levels. This stanza is notably the first time she uses the word “we,” capitalized for emphasis, and creates a paradox where “meet apart” seems possible, or at least more possible than any of the other alternatives she has rejected throughout the poem. She claims that the door is just “ajar” but then compares it to oceans, making “ajar” as wide open as the earth itself, and then linking it to prayer, or hope.

In this amazingly deft bit of wordplay, Dickinson reverses everything as she’s saying it-the lovers are apart but meeting; the door is ajar, like an ocean; and the speaker is somehow sustained by despair. In a final touch, she ends the poem with an elongated endstop, printed as a dash, and whether it is meant to be “ajar” or more definitively shut is as unanswerable as the final question of the poem.

7. Q. Consider Dickinson’s poem ‘I cannot live with you as a love poem.

Or,

Q. Critics sometimes call the poem an anti-love piece. Do you agree? Give reasons.

The nearly ceaseless endorsement of the miraculous “happily ever after” ending in love stories and poetry has created the pervasive belief that but one type of love matters: consummated love. However, love is not always so simple, nor so ideal some love is destined never to be realized fully or even at all. Yet it is still meaningful, even if it does not follow the “traditional” path that ends with fulfillment. This closing segment of Emily Dickinson’s twelve-stanza poem “I cannot live with You” is the culmination of the speaker’s struggles with a would-be lover, a struggle arising from

the speaker’s separation from this person. Though she desires to be with the unnamed individual, she cannot – it proves impossible for her to either live or die with her beloved due to their circumstances, and the poem, like their relationship, “ends” unresolved.

In “I cannot live with You,” the speaker navigates the frustrating, unachievable nature of her love, and through this exploration, Dickinson illustrates the futility of seeking to consummate a love that is not to be and speaks to the immense pain that being separated from it causes. While there are glimmers of hope in the uncertainty of the would be lovers’ predicament, which could mean the love is worth pursuing, each instance of hope is minimized and shown to be fleeting. There is some promise in the speaker’s saying to her absent lover, “So We must meet apart – .”

Although the lovers are not together, they are, in some respect, able to “meet.” Capitalizing “We” indicates the significance of the individuals as a whole – as two that have become one. Making “We” a proper noun endows it with more meaningfulness, and in fact, invests it with agency of its own. “We” makes space for itself in the poem in the same way that “We” make space for ourselves in the world – the word itself is stronger and more imposing with a capital first letter, just as two individuals are stronger and take up more space when they are together. However, despite the hope of togetherness the word suggests, “We” is quickly torn apart.

The two would-be lovers are no sooner brought together then they “must meet apart.” Not even a line is devoted to the possibility of “We” – it is a futile wish in the face of the certainty that they “must” be separate. This considered, the “So” beginning the line also feels like submission, rather than a potentially fruitful attempt at problem solving. There are no better alternatives, “So” the speaker must accept this defeat.

The speaker and the subject are quickly made pointedly distinct from one another once again when the speaker refers to them as “I” and “You,” as they are named through most of the poem. In fact, in only three instances does the speaker use inclusive, plural pronouns, and in each, the idea of togetherness is similarly dismantled. Hope is to some degree reestablished later, when the speaker describes herself and the subject of the poem as being in different places, between which “just the Door [is] ajar.” Though these two people are in different locations, whether physically or emotionally, a link between them remains – the Door is not shut, but rather is only “ajar.” This liminal space indicates a possible transition from the way things are now, which is characterized by separateness, and the way things could be – there is potential for the space to be crossed. However, this is the only link between the two places – it is “just” the Door providing any kind of potential connection – nothing else creates the possibility of unity.

The fact that “Door” is capitalized also calls attention to it, reinforcing its prominence as a barrier between the would-be lovers, and again, endowing it with an extra strength. The noteworthy instances of dashed hope in a poem about two would-be

lovers highlights their desire for romantic or sexual union, but also the ultimate lack of fulfillment, and the uselessness of seeking it. The separation of the speaker and the subject ultimately dominates the space of the poem, and although there are examples of hopefulness, they are eclipsed by the prominence and inescapability of disunion.

There are numerous dashes, and they are often very close together. All but one line in this passage, and nearly every line in the rest of the poem, ends with a dash, which means that nearly every line begins in its own singular way after a pause, rather than in a fluid way as continuous lines do. Caesura in the line “You there! I – here -” is particularly significant, as the dashes on either side of “I” very noticeably create a considerable space between “You” and “I,” even within the context of a single line.

Dickinson’s use of caesura throughout the poem both draws attention to silence and absence, building the poem on what is missing rather than what is there, and in the separation of the words, emphasizes the separation of the would-be lovers. The fact that the false hope of the door being “ajar” is the kind of “ajar” “That Oceans are and Prayer” also emphasizes the immensity of the distance between them, even in light of some kind of connection.

The “Oceans” are incredibly vast – too vast and too turbulent to be traversed – and are therefore an impossible obstacle, never to be crossed, just as it is impossible for the two lovers to close the gap between them. “Prayer,” too, highlights the impossibility of a meaningful interconnection between the two lovers, because although praying has the potential to offer some kind of comfort, it cannot be so. One may speak to God, but God will never directly speak back. Prayer as an act is purely an intangible one – it relies on an internal, individual, spiritual process, which does not and cannot offer any tactile or bodily interaction between the “two” entities involved.

The foundation of any hope the speaker has access to is built on emptiness in the end, it is frail and fleeting, and cannot make a real difference in her situation. The speaker’s love was never meant to be consummated, and its existence leads only to suffering, ultimately proving to be futile. The presence of the “White Sustenance” points to this nonfulfillment – white is associated with being untouched and pure, and especially considering the speaker’s mention of “Prayer,” the whiteness is indicative of ultimately leaving the space in one’s heart and one’s body empty to better relate to God through religious virtue.

– However, the “White Sustenance” is also sexual – it evokes seminal fluid, which would indicate that the love, or at least the desire, was fulfilled. However, this is not the case. The utilitarían “Sustenance,” the nourishment that keeps a person alive for a time, indicates a fleeting provision to the speaker. It is unsustainable, and even while it is there, it is not rich, or truly satisfying. This “White Sustenance” is also

immediately followed up by “Despair -,” and this is how the poem ends. So it is clear then that the love has not led to a happy ending, nor has it even truly been resolved.

“Despair -” occupies its own line, indicating the singular, resounding effect it has on the speaker. It also does not conclude the poem decisively – rather than ending the thought with a period, which would create a certain finality, the line ends once again with a dash. Ending on this pause emphasizes the silence once again, but also leaves the poem, in a sense, unfinished, just as the relationship is.

To conclude, in “I cannot live with You,” despite her immense desire for unity and togetherness, consummated love is never attainable for the speaker, and even with some distant hope, any attempts to realize her desires are futile as well. The impossibility of love is truly the central concern of this poem. However, this does not mean that love is not meaningful, or that one should never hope to experience love. Rather, it shows that a form of love – possibly one of the most consequential – is love that remains unconsummated, or unfinished.

Although throughout Dickinson’s poem, love is portrayed as futile in the sense that nothing tangible amounts from it, it still has the potential to be impactful. Great suffering was yielded from this love, and there is meaning both in the pauses and in the silence, of the poem, and of life.

There is another way to read the opening two lines. She may be rejecting her love for her art, i.e., writing poetry. When she says,”It would be life,” she may mean, “Living together would be real life, but it would not be art.” Dickinson wrote a number of poems about poetry, and the topic of poetry runs through her letters.

“I cannot live with you” is another poem of not-having, a form that exclusion often takes in Dickinson’s poetry. Notice as you read her poems how often the speaker or another figure is excluded or cut off from the joys and successes of life. Such poems Dickinson have contributed to her being seen as the poet of exclusion.

 

8.Q. Briefly and critically appreciate the poem ‘I cannot live with you of Emily Dickinson.

‘I cannot live with You is one of Emily Dickinson’s most famous poems, but like much of her greatest poetry, it eludes any easy or straightforward analysis. Somewhat unusually among Dickinson’s most celebrated poems, ‘I cannot live with You’ is a love poem – but it is far from a conventional one.

What is this enigmatic poem about? It opens by wrong-footing us twice – in the first two lines. ‘I cannot live with You’: unusually for a love poem, the assertion is not ‘I cannot live without you’, but rather the opposite. Then, the reason: ‘It would be Life’. Not death, which is what we might expect, but the more positive

Yet this ‘Life’, for Dickinson, is far from positive: it is confined and concealed, ‘Behind the Shelf’, as if a sexton (or church officer) had locked it away. It is like

‘Life’.

broken or outdated porcelain – an old cup, for instance that is discarded or kept 1

out of sight by a housewife who doesn’t want such unfashionable china on display. Dickinson then states that, just as she cannot live with her lover, she could not die with him either: I could not die – with You -/ For One must wait / To shut the Other’s Gaze down -/ You – could not- / And I could I stand by / And see You – freeze- / Without my Right of Frost – / Death’s privilege?

To paraphrase this, ‘I could not die with you, because to see your loved one die and have to close their dead eyes with your fingers would fill you with grief so overpowering that you’d want to join them in death – and you can’t, because “One must wait” for one’s own death, and go on living without the other person. And as for myself, could I stand by and watch your body turn cold in death, without longing to attain my own “Right of Frost” and join you in cold death?’ 159m orio

over From considering life and death, Dickinson then turns her analytical eye to resurrection, stating that she could not rise from the dead with her loved one, because his face is too beautiful and would obscure the face of Jesus. This would prevent Dickinson from seeing paradise, because her lover’s face would block it from view.

Similarly, she cannot conceive of hell, because hell for her simply means being without him. Just as their lives must be spent apart and their deaths must be solitary, so they seem destined to spend their time in the afterlife apart – at least this is the way Dickinson views it.

The poem ends with another little riddle or paradox: So We must meet apart -/ You there – I – here- / With just the Door ajar / That Oceans are – and Prayer -/ And that White Sustenance – / Despair 1ońcega

500 ‘Meet apart? Just like two people in two separate rooms who can merely glimpse and hear each other through a door left ajar, or like two people who are oceans apart (but who can, for instance, ‘meet’ through corresponding if not by meeting in the flesh), Dickinson and her lover are destined to meet but only in such a way that reminds us of the distance between them. Finally, Dickinson likens this sort of relationship to the one a religious person has with God: ‘Prayer’ is a way of ‘meeting’ God but also reminds the mortal worshipper that God is up there while they are down here on Earth.

And then, a last overturning of conventional thinking: ‘Despair’ is not painted black but instead is ‘White Sustenance’. This turns on its head the usual black-white attitude to hope and despair (‘great white hope’, ‘blackest despair’), making despair not only the white one but the thing which keeps us going or sustains us. For after all, in hopeless love it is despair at the situation, rather than hope that it can be overcome, which tends to feed on us and which we, in turn, feed on. You’ll be hardpushed to find a more succinct and sharp, yet also powerfully moving, description of hopeless love in all of nineteenth-century poetry.

However, unlike writers of traditional hymns, Dickinson took liberties with the meter. She also allowed herself to use enjambment more frequently than traditional hymn writers, breaking a line where there is no natural or syntactic pause. For example, in the second stanza of “I cannot live with you,” she writes: The Sexton keeps the Key to – Putting up Our Life – His Porcelain – Like a Cup – Dickinson breaks the first line after a preposition and before a direct object; in both places, one would not traditionally punctuate with a comma, semicolon, or dash, and there would be no pause.

Since so few of her poems were published during her lifetime, the posthumous discovery of Dickinson’s cache of poems presented an unusual variety of challenges. What is now known as her poetics or prosody is bound to a discussion of how her poems have been edited, and how her handwritten manuscripts have been interpreted in contemporary editions.

‘I cannot live with You is at once a love poem and an anti-love poem, or rather a poem against the act of love. This is because it can also be analysed as, if not a religious poem, then a poem about religion, since it argues that mortal love distracts us from spiritual thoughts and religious observance. This is evident in the early reference to the sexton, and then again in the lines about Jesus and paradise. The poem deftly weaves together familiar tropes from love poetry – the sentiments that ‘life without you would be hell’ and ‘my thoughts are consumed entirely by you’ – and, by melding them together with religious tropes, creates a new kind of love poem.

 

Marks 5

 

1. How has the poem been written?

“I cannot live with you” is a poem by Emily Dickinson. This poem is Dickinson’s longest mature lyric. It is about an unrequited love. The writing is intended to be a persuasive argument for a man to love her. This lyrical poem is made up of thirteen stanzas. Most of the stanzas contain four lines; however, the final stanza contains seven. It’s almost as if she couldn’t explain everything in only four lines so she had to make it slightly longer, because her feelings are so great. Like many of Dickinson’s writings, the second and fourth lines are rhymed, although many of them imperfect. Those same lines are only four syllables. The other lines in the stanzas contain an assortment of meters. It doesn’t stick to just one throughout the work.

 

2. Explain :

I cannot live with You – It would be Life

Our Life His Porcelain – Like a Cup

I Cannot Live With You opens with a curious line. The speaker is addressing person and telling that person that she cannot live there with him. She tells him that to live with him “would be life”. It seems strange that she would not want to live with him if she herself admits that to live with him would be life itself. But then she goes into deeper detail. She claims that “life is over there” and describes it as being something “behind the shelf”. It is almost as if the speaker does not believe herself to have access to life.

The next stanza is a fascinating explanation from the speaker. She has already told the subject of I Cannot Live With You that she cannot live with him because that would be life, and life is not accessible to her. Now, she introduces another characterthe Sexton. The Sexton was a person who would be in charge of the church yard. He was once referred to as the gravedigger. In the days of the gravedigger and the church yard watcher, people were occasionally buried alive. It is a terrifying idea, and because of this, the safety coffin was patented. The safety coffin had a bell the person inside could ring if for some reason he or she woke up to find themselves buried alive. The gravedigger, if he heard a bell ringing, would dig up the grave. The use of the “Sexton” to describe the one who has control of the speaker’s life suggests that the speaker believes herself to be dead already, figuratively. Somehow, the speaker does not feel in control of her own life, but at the mercy of one who might dig her up out of the grave. Still speaking to the same person she began speaking to, she says, “Our Life- His Porcelain- like a cup”. This reveals that the Sexton symbolizes God in I Cannot Live With You. However, the speaker does not portray a loving God that allows people to live, but one that seems to keep people in their graves, or on a shelf like a porcelain figurine or a decorative cup which gives him pleasure to look at, to own.

3. Dickinson is often described as a poet of “inwardness.” What do you think this means? How does Dickinson convey the inner workings of the mind in a poem such as “I cannot live with You”?

To say that Dickinson is a poet of inwardness is simply to recognize that her own thoughts and feelings are her most important subjects; moreover, her treatment of them avoids all reference to the relevant social or philosophical issues of her day. In “I cannot live with You,” Dickinson shows the mind as it speculates painfully on what might have been (life with the beloved, death with the beloved, heaven with the beloved) even as it acknowledges that these will never be; Dickinson indicates the

despair inherent in this knowledge with the repeated rhetorical construction, “I cannot … with You.” In the final stanza, Dickinson’s speaker is unable to confront the reality of her separation from her beloved, and her delicate metaphors reflect this (as in “the Door ajar / That Oceans are”). Ultimately, however, the speaker realizes that she cannot evade her predicament, and she ends her poem with the single word that summarizes her feelings: “Despair.”

4. What idea of individual freedom is maintained in this poem?

The idea is about the first impossibility of living together and it suggests poet’s wish through speaker’s voice to maintain her individual freedom through following lines: I cannot live with You – It would be Life – And Life is over there – Behind the Shelf The Sexton keeps the Key to – Putting up Our Life – His porcelain – Like a Cup – Here in these lines speaker is providing the reasons for the impossibility of living together with her lover. She thinks there would be a life but it would be without any individual freedom. So she calls it ‘a life behind the shelf’. She doesn’t want so much confined life where she is feeling exhausted due to the lack of any creative potential as an artist. She thinks going into a relationship will stop her poetic creativity and it can also be the reason for losing her individual freedom as a person. In the next stanza she is giving the picture of restricted life under the control of the church she denies for Ich kind of life because unlike her lover she is not religious so she doesn’t want to make her life rule- blessed. There is reference to the ‘sexton’ it expresses the control. Her lover is a church related officer and hence, he has to follow the church’s discipline the speaker fears that their life would become the church property. She compares their life with ‘crockery set’, ‘porcelain’ and ‘cup’ which is unusual, oldfashioned and cracked. She feels that if both of them live together finally their relationship will crack and break into pieces. The problem of adjustment is more in case of the speaker because she is a poet, an artist so it is obvious that she will prefer freedom and individualism. Her lover is a religious person who has to follow certain code of conduct. Both of them are contrastive in spirit with each other. Therefore, the speaker expresses impossibility of living together. Thus, we can see the speaker’s struggle for maintaining individual freedom by denying the relationship with her lover.

5. Explain :

Discarded of the Housewife Quaint or Broke A newer Sevres pleases – Old Ones crack — – – –

This stanza brings a shift of tone. The reader becomes aware that the words connect with the previous stanza in a way that brings in an entirely different meaning. Now, the porcelain or decorative cup is something that is “discarded” by the “housewife”. The one in control of the speaker’s life has switched from the Sexton to the housewife, and now she is discarded as though she were “quaint” and outdated or broken. She

sees herself being replaced by newer models as the old around her “crack”. At this point, it is important to remember that I Cannot Live With You began with the refusal to live with someone. That someone, perhaps a lover, would offer the speaker life. But the speaker does not believe that life is accessible to her. She believes that it is meant to be something distant. She is not sure exactly why she believes this, other than the firm belief that someone or something outside of her is controlling her life. She compares these forces to a Sexton and then to a housewife. At this point in I Cannot Live With You, she anticipates feeling broken and discarded. This is one of her reasons for claiming that she cannot live with the person to whom she speaks. The first reason is that it would bring her life- life which she believes she cannot obtain. The second reason is that she believes she would eventually be discarded and replaced with someone new.

6. Explain :

I could not die- with You – – For One must wait To shut the Other’s Gaze down could not You –

At this point in I Cannot Live With You, the speaker’s refusal to live with the person to whom she speaks is beginning to sound like the decline to a marriage proposal. Now, she is not only refusing to live with someone, but she is also refusing to die with someone. This implies that someone has asked her to spend her life with him. This coincides with the historical context of the poem. In the early 1800’s, during Dickinson’s lifetime, the only reason for one person to be asked to live with another would be in the context of marriage. Certainly two young people of the opposite sex living together would have been nearly unheard of, and would have brought shame upon the family. Thus, in the context of the speaker’s answers and the time period in which I Cannot Live With You was written, it is safe to assume that the speaker is in fact declining a marriage proposal. She claims that she cannot live with this person, and then she claims that she cannot die with him. She offers a few reasons for this refusal as well. She claims that one person must wait to die until after the other person has died. After all, someone had to be there to shut the eyes of their beloved dead. This reveals the speaker’s rather morbid and cynical approach to the idea of love. Even though she obviously feels alive being around this person, she refuses to live with him for fear that she would eventually be discarded. Then, she goes on to explain that even if she were not discarded, love could only end in one other way. One of them would have to watch the other die. It seems the speaker would rather avoid love than risk losing it through death or departure.

7. Why does the poetess look at death as a private affair?

– I could not die – with You – For One must wait To shut the Other’s Gaze down – You could not – And I Could I stand by And see You – freeze – Without my Right of Frost-Death’s privilege After realising the fact that it is almost impossible

for lover to see her dying she then accepts the reality that they can never get death at the same time. She cannot live if her lover is not there. So she prefers to die first. She thinks that it is her individual decision. She is not thinking about this under any force. Rather it is her curiosity as an artist because she has lived an unhappy life. Her frustrations, loneliness is responsible for thirst. She calls death a privilege. That means death is a very special advantage or favour to her.Thus, they cannot see each other dying. Therefore she refuses to die together. Privilege can be taken as an extremely personal or individual thing. Death therefore is an extremely personal thing which is not sharable. As an artist the speaker probably has great curiosity about death and related experience because of the problems in her life. She, therefore, is not ready to share this private affair with her lover.

 

8. What do oceans and  prayer mean in “I cannot live with You”?

 

In “I cannot live with You-” the speaker perceives a vast, unbridgeable distance between herself and her beloved. It isn’t a physical distance, to be sure, but a spiritual one. The speaker cannot accept her beloved’s religious worldview, which would include their being together in the afterlife. The oceans and prayer mean in “I cannot live without You-” are the great distances that separate the speaker from her beloved. Even in the afterlife, they would still remain separated, not least because the speaker’s beloved has a different belief system. The distances between them are just too great, like the kind associated with vast oceans that keep people apart and prayers that serve to emphasize the huge distance between people and God.

 

9. Why does the speaker cannot live or die with her beloved?

 

This poem’s coherence results from the opposition of tensions that arise from Dickinson’s dual understanding of life. To live with the beloved is impossible, for “it would be life.” Life is, on the other hand, something eternal, the key to which resides with the church sexton, who keeps the key to the Lord’s tabernacle. The cups of human life, however, hold no sacramental wine; the housewife discards them when they break or crack and replaces them with newer ware. The speaker cannot die with the beloved, for the gaze of “the Other” intrudes; it can be shut neither out nor down. This apparent rival that spies on any possible pact is the metaphysical divine other that has first rights in matters of death as well as life. Similarly, it is impossible for the speaker to “stand by/ And see you-freeze”; the single death of the beloved denies death to the devoted speaker. Even a joint resurrection of the lovers is impossible; this would anger Jesus and obscure the face of the redeemer. To this dual understanding of life the poet thus adds the stages of the Christian experience: life, death, judgment, and resurrection. When the beloved looked upon the “homesick Eye,” grace would “Glow plain,” but it would be “foreign” to him who sought a higher grace. Furthermore, “They d judge Us,” saying that he sought to serve Heaven even though she could not. The speaker could then no longer have her eyes on paradise; both would suffer damnation, but she would fall lower, and they would still be apart. The effect would be the same even if the beloved were forgiven. The only alternative,

“Despair,” becomes their connection; their only conversation is their joint prayer which allows them to link the immanent and the transcendent.

10. What sort of clash happens between the speaker’s inner passions and the religion?

The speaker counts the impossibility of facing final judgement together which shows the speaker’s personal views on religion. They’d judge Us – How For You – served Heaven – You know, Or sought to – I could not – Because You saturated Sight – And I had not more Eyes For sordid excellence As Paradise Facing the final judgement together is not the grand event for her. This cannot happen because the lover has served the god throughout his life by different ways he has tried to be a good disciple of God through his thinking action. She could not serve the god. Her life and thinking was completely filled by his presence, therefore, she could not ‘see’ anything beyond him. Even if, by chance she gets a place in heaven, she would find it ‘sordid’- unattractive and dirty. She is sure that she would be famous in Paradise also but she won’t enjoy the stay over there, Heaven is almost like Hell for her if her lover is not there. She is not attracted by this concept at all. For her the outside perfection (Paradise) is less attractive than the inside passion. Thus, the speaker refuses to face the final judgement day with her lover because that would be a point of separation for her. –

11. Explain : They’d judge Us – HowFor You-served Heaven – – You know,

Rang loudest — On the Heavenly fame

With these words, the speaker gives more insight into her refusal. It appears that she sees this person as one who serves God, and she knows that she cannot. She begins with “They’d judge Us”. It is unclear whether “They” refers to the Holy Trinity or the other people at the final resurrection, or whether she has reverted back to the present time period and is referring to their friends and family. In any case, she believes that she cannot be worthy of him because she has no desire to serve heaven.

The speaker continues to give her reasons for her refusal, claiming that the one to whom she speaks is able to see, but she herself “had no more eyes”. Specifically, she claims that she has no eyes for paradise. As a Christian is often taught to keep his eyes set on paradise, this description of herself further allows the speaker to explain that she has no interest in faith and no eyes or heart for heaven. She believes this to be in contrast with the heart of the one she speaks to. 1

The speaker enters into the hypothetical, supposing that even if the one she loves is “lost”, she would be lost as well. With this, she implies that neither person

would do the other any good. She claims that even if Heaven rang loudly for her, she could never respond. The speaker seems to be entering into every argument against this marriage, including the argument that even if the man is lost as she is, they could never help one another.

12. How does the poem conclude?

So We must meet apart – You there – I – Here – With just the Door ajar That Oceans are – and Prayer – And that White Sustenance – Despair – In the last section speaker comes to certain conclusive remarks about their relationship. Separation from each other could only be the possibility for both of them. They should distance themselves. This will allow both of them to keep their identities intact. Generally, relationships demand union, but in the speaker’s case ‘apartness’ becomes the only option. She further says that even if they are apart from each other they should keep the possibility of `meeting’ together in future. The image of a half-close and half-open door conveys this idea. One must not close the future possibilities of any relationship considering the present plight. It is impossible for both of them to measure each other because of their deep and mysterious reality like oceans. In the present stage they can only pray for that unknown future the only support that the speaker has in this condition is that of ‘despair’- it is a stage without any hope. She wants to be completely hopeless about their relationship. Thus, according to the speaker, for maintaining their own identities and priorities she handles this affair in a logical way. She is not emotional here. In a way, here she makes a choice between self and love and she chooses ‘self’ because as per the situational crisis it should be given priority in the poet’s opinion.

SHORT TYPE QUESTIONS Marks 2

 

1. When was ‘I Cannot live with you’written?

In “I Cannot Live with You,” published in 1890, was the poem no. 640 in Thomas Johnson’s edition of the Complete Poems.

2. With whom does the speaker talk in the poem?

The speaker talks to her lover.

3. What the poem is about?

This is a poem about a couple’s hopeless love story. It may relate to Dickinson’s real life since she did have a relationship with a person.

4. What does the poet describe as “the Door ajar” in “I cannot live with you”?

The Oceans.

5. What is the speaker talking about in this poem? In the poem, “I Cannot Live with You,” the speaker is talking about the intensity of her love and her depression at having to live away from each other. This is one her most famous love poems and it had a very deep meaning.

6. Why can’t they live together?

Because it would be “life,” but life which is confined or restricted. She uses the metaphor of life as porcelain locked up by the sexton (sextom: a church official whose duties include maintaining church property, digging graves, ringing the church bells). She refers to being together in this world as “our life,” a life locked up, not free, without passion or expression.

7. Why does the speaker talk about the place for her own priorities?

The speaker counts the impossibility of resurrecting together which shows the speaker’s priority for her personal demands. She is not interested in resurrecting because for her lover and his presence with her is more important. She doesn’t believe in religion and its related activities because she is more fascinated by her lover than the God.

8. What does the reference to a Sexton signify?

The reference to the sexton combined with the religious references in the rest of the poem may signify the restrictiveness and narrowness of conventional religion, which “kill.” The cup reference can be read as a reference to communion and would have been a familiar association for Dickinson and her community. However you read this metaphor specifically, its general meaning is clear enough. The cup metaphor is expanded from the sexton to the housewife, who prefers Sevres (Sevres. fine porcelain made in the French town of Sevres). This extension to the housewife suggests that the conditions and values of society are hostile to a passion like theirs.

9. Why cannot they die together?

They can’t die together because she has to perform the last act which the living perform for the dead, closing his eyes. She knows he would be incapable of performing that act for her. On the other hand, she cannot continue living once he dies; she uses metaphors of cold (“frost” and “freeze”) for death. She regards death as her “right”! and a “privilege,” thereby making death a desirable state. Nevertheless, because death could separate them, their dying together is impossible.

10. What is Grace referred to here?

The Grace referred to can be seen as Jesus’s promise that the dead will rise from their graves to life everlasting. Her total absorption in her beloved, his importance for her, would relegate Jesus to secondary status: her lover’s face would outshine Jesus’s. In addition, she would be homesick unless her beloved were near her. So resurrection together is impossible.

11. What is meant by ‘sordid’? What is sordid in the poem? Sordid, today, generally means dirty or depressingly wretched; an older meaning is having an inferior nature.

12. Why is Paradise sordid to the poet?

She described Paradise as ‘sordid’.

Paradise is sordid in comparison to the joys of her relationship with her beloved. She will not accept heaven without him, and she regards any separation from him as itself “hell.”

13. What does ‘ocean’ suggest?

“Oceans” suggests a great separation physically.

14. What is left to the lovers? Why?

All that is left to support them in their love is despair.

The only possibility left is to live apart, a partially open door allowing their only contact.; turning to prayer would seem to be futile in view of her rejection of resurrection and paradise.

15. What is meant by ‘I here- You there’?

Though they do not meet physically, they will meet in her poetry. She will write poetry (“here”), and he will read her poetry (“there”). The poet needs solitude or apartness to write poetry.

16. What is so special about the last stanza of the poem?

The last stanza is seven lines, almost twice as long as any of the other stanzas. This length emphasizes the idea of the stanza, their separation; also it gives the impression of a long or stretched out time for her loneliness and aloneness.

17. Who is the Sexton?

The ‘sexton’ is the speaker’s lover. He is a church related officer and hence, he has to follow the church’s discipline the speaker fears that their life would become the church property.

18. With what does she compare their life? Why?

She compares their life with crockery sets which are old-fashioned and cracked. Her lover is a religious person who has to follow a certain code of conduct which is not important in the speaker’s view. She feels if both of them live together finally their relationship will crack and break into pieces.

19. What has to be performed before dying of one partner?

They can’t die together because she has to perform the last act which the living performs for the dead, closing his eyes.

20. Why does she capitalize the word ‘we’ in the final stanza?

The last stanza is notably the first time she uses the word “we,” capitalized for emphasis, and creates a paradox where “meet apart” seems possible, or at least more possible than any of the other alternatives she has rejected throughout the poem.

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