My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day -
The Owner Passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him -
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head -
'Tis than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - May longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without - the power to die -

c. 1863                    1929


This is one of Dickinson's most enigmatic poems. Its interpretation depends on the identity of the metaphorical "Master" that the gun accompanies and protects. While many readers want to see this as a poem about sexual love, it may be more to the point to read it as another parable, this time concerning her commitment to poetry.