A Thought Went Up My Mind Today
Analysis of the Poem
On the surface level, the poem is quite simple though what the poet says about is rather vague. She thought of something on a day that she hadn’t thought of for a long time. She doesn’t know why she stopped thinking about it back then. Also, she cannot say why she thought about it again, after so long. In fact, she couldn’t even say for sure what the thought was. All she knows is that the thought gave her a brief moment of realization and then disappeared. Thus at the centre of the poem is a paradox as the poet is describing something which she cannot clearly define.
The poem begins by referring to a very commonplace occurrence. A thought props up in the poet’s mind. It is a thought that she had had before. But then the thought was not a finished, clearly defined one. She does not remember how long before she had this thought first. She cannot remember the exact time of its previous occurrence. So the description is rather vague. But the poet is not telling us about something concrete, which registers through the senses. The poet is attempting to convey something – a thought – which is abstract. Therefore, the vague description suits the theme of the poem. Furthermore, thoughts spring from the mind which too, cannot be defined in concrete terms.
The poet cannot remember where the thought went to or why such a thought occurred to her. That is, the occasion of the thought or the source which inspired it is also kept in the dark. Why it recurred too, is unknown. The poet says in clear terms that she cannot say definitely what it was, thus emphasizing its shapeless and elusive nature. The poet says that she lacks the skill to describe it in specific clear-cut terms. Despite the fact that the poet is unable to say precisely what the thought is, it is not totally unknown to her. Deep within her soul, she knows that it is familiar to her. That is why she is able to realise that it has occurred to her in the past. The reappearance of the thought was just a reminder and it never comes to the poet again.
The poet is unable to give a precise expression to the thought. But a thought exists when we can say what it is. An author can express any thought that crosses her mind, at least approximately. The poet insists on keeping us in the dark about the nature and reason behind the thought. Therefore, it is obvious that thought itself does not form the subject matter of the poem. The thought becomes a metaphor for the mysteries of human existence. It may allude to life itself which we cannot define in precise terms in spite of the fact that we have an awareness about it. Again, the inexpressibility of the thought may also refer to the mysterious working of the human mind. The working of the mind is as unpredictable as the appearance and vanishing of the thought and is as indescribable as the elusive thought that defies explanation in specific terms. It may also refer to the creation of art. A work of art emanates from the creative mind of an artist but how it evolves or why it came into being remains a mystery. Thus Emily Dickinson looks into the many mysteries that hover over our existence which elude exact description even though we are conscious of them.