20 Emily Dickinson Quotes Out of Literature Class

(Last Updated On: September 13, 2020)

20 Emily Dickinson Quotes Out of Literature Class

If you’re an American not super-versed in American literature, the name “Emily Dickinson” probably only rings two bells in your head. “High school English class” and “poetry.” Though you probably vaguely remember that she was an important poet; if you study the subject you know that she definitely was. Dickinson (1830-1886) was known for bucking the trends of her contemporaries–slant rhymes and odd punctuation remain staples of her work now. Sadly, Dickinson didn’t receive much recognition for her work in life, the vast majority of her writing went unpublished (only 10 of 1,800 poems) until after her death. Even then many of her published poems would be altered until a more complete anthology was published in 1955. Super quick overview aside, here are some neat Emily Dickinson Quotes.

If you were curious about the alterations to Dickinson’s poems, they were actually a little more than just making her work contemporary for the 1890s. The first of her poems was published in 1890 by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd (both acquaintances of Dickinson in life). Dickinson’s work made many references to her sister in law Susan; some poems were even dedicated to her. Most of those references were removed, mostly by Todd (who wanted to make Dickson’s work more “modest”).

On Purpose & Writing

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”

“Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.”

“Not knowing when the dawn will come 

I open every door.”

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.”

“Success is counted sweetest by those who never succeed.”

“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”

“A word is dead
When it is said,
  Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
  That day.”

“Saying nothing sometimes says the most.”

“We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to form,
Our statures touch the skies–”

On Being

“I am nobody!
Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?”

“Forever is composed of nows.”

“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”

“It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.”

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

On Love

“Love is anterior to life, posterior to death, initial of creation, and the exponent of breath.”

“The heart wants what it wants — or else it does not care.”

“Till I loved I never lived.”

“Unable are the Loved to die

For Love is Immortality,”

On Dogs

“Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”

See if you know whether or not something was from Disney or Dickinson here. Hopefully this was good practice.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.