My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
About this poem
Introduced by a variety of writers, artists and other guests, the Scottish Poetry Library’s classic poem selections are a reminder of wonderful poems to rediscover.
Kapka Kassabova on ‘Parting’:
I discovered the ‘lady in white’ and her poetry at the age of 18, at the very beginning of my émigré life in English.
I was then living in that disquieting space between languages and cultures. Her poems had the unmistakably quaint ring of the previous century, but even so, they spoke to me from a timeless, ageless, genderless place. Parting was the one among her poems that struck me, in the words of Kafka, like a blow with an axe to the head, and broke the frozen sea inside me. I already knew something about the heaven and hell of parting: I had left behind my homeland, and gone to the other end of the world, the oceans parting and closing behind me.
Now, a decade and a half and many other partings later, the poem resonates more powerfully than ever. It strikes to the heart of loss – all kinds of loss – as something that is huge and hopeless to conceive. Lost love and lost dreams in particular come to mind, with all their infernal Dantean overtones contained in just the final two lines. Naturally, one is curious to know the biographical events behind the poem, but typically for Emily Dickinson’s secluded life and transcendental work, Parting ultimately inhabits the ‘undiscovered continent’, the ‘landscape of the spirit’ where her best work is to be found.
Read more about Kapka Kassabova