Rests at Night
The Sun from shining,
Nature–and some Men–
Rest at Noon–some Men–
While Nature
And the Sun–go on–

Emily Dickinson originally wrote Poem #714 around 1863. It is part of Fascicle 23, which includes 20 poems written in ink. It is also included in the Houghton Library, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dickinson refers to nature and the sun as always continuing in a circular motion. The two never rest at the same time, but only appear to do so.  While the men of one region rest for the night and the nature and sun convince the men that the sun and nature are asleep, but in reality they are awake in another region. When the men of the first region awake, it appears that the sun and nature have slept alongside the men and are awaking together. This continuous circle allows the unconscious man to have his world at rest, while the awaken man lives on with the sun and nature until the next rotation of the sun and moon. As the world spins continuously, some men begin their day and end their night. The one thing that will always stay true is the wondrous rotation of the Earth from day to night and Dickinson seems to highlight the beauty of that routinely manner.

Ashok Karra suggests that this poem is a hidden love romance story and calling the “rests” men who are in her words “lazy.” On the other hand, this is potentially be a romance poem with the “rests” merely the distances from man and woman. The poem suggests that “Some men” may live on the opposite side of the world in another hemisphere and therefore their sun and nature rest at night while in the other hemisphere their men, sun, and nature are resting at the other groups’ noon time.

Bibliography and Further Reading Ashok Karra. Rethink (2010); “Manuscript View for Houghton Library – (168a,b) “My Faith Is Larger than the Hills,” J766, Fr489; Rests at Night, J714, Fr490.” Emily Dickinson Archive. Manuscript View for Houghton Library – (168a,b) My Faith Is Larger than the Hills, J766, Fr489; Rests at Night, J714, Fr490.

Credits Composed by Emma Kash, Spring 2017.


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American Poetry and Poetics Copyright © 2017 by Mark C. Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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