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I cannot live with you by Emily Dickinson


"I cannot live with you" is a poem by Emily Dickinson. This poem is Dickinson's longest mature lyric. It is about an unrequited love. The writing is intended to be a persuasive argument for a man to love her.

This lyrical poem is made up of thirteen stanzas. Most of the stanzas contain four lines; however, the final stanza contains seven. It's almost as if she couldn't explain everything in only four lines so she had to make it slightly longer, because her feelings are so great.

Like many of Dickinson's writings, the second and fourth lines are rhymed, although many of them imperfect. Those same lines are only four syllables. The other lines in the stanzas contain an assortment of meters. It doesn't stick to just one throughout the work.

Johnson number: 640


I cannot live with you

I cannot live with you,
It would be life,
And life is over there
Behind the shelf

The sexton keeps the key to,
Putting up
Our life, his porcelain,
Like a cup

Discarded of the housewife,
Quaint or broken;
A newer Sevres pleases,
Old ones crack.

I could not die with you,
For one must wait
To shut the other's gaze down,
You could not.

And I, could I stand by
And see you freeze,
Without my right of frost,
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise with you,
Because your face
Would put out Jesus'.
That new grace

Glow plain and foreign
On my homesick eye,
Except that you, than he
Shone closer by.

They'd judge us - how?
For you served Heaven, you know
Or sought to;
I could not,

Because you saturated sight,
And I had no more eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise.

And were you lost, I would be,
Though my name
Rang loudest
On the heavenly fame.

And were you saved,
And I condemned to be
Where you were not,
That self were hell to me.

So we must keep apart,
You there, I here,
With just the door ajar
That oceans are,
And prayer,
And that pale svustenance,

Next: I died for beauty - but was scarce
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Literary Movement
19th Century

Lyric, Love

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