Emily Dickinson, “Confirming All who analyze” (1268)

Confirming All who analyze (1268)
Emily Dickinson

Confirming All who analyze
In the Opinion fair
That Eloquence is when the Heart
Has not a Voice to spare ā€”


“Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” The notion of “fair and square” emerges closer to Shakespeare’s time. There seem to be three themes suggested by “fair:” beauty, justice and the weather.

The surface of this poem is a beautiful notion. The Heart in its loss for words speaks movingly and with full command of language. “All who analyze” are confirmed in this. The circularity of this reading is emphasized by “confirming” – who exactly proclaims the Heart eloquent when voiceless? One gets the feeling this notion stems from the Heart itself. No one said “eloquently” and “truly” were necessarily linked.

However if we say “fair” is a synonym for “just,” then “Eloquence” is still “when the Heart has not a Voice to spare.” Something here doesn’t seem right, either. We’re all experienced with the Heart as voiceless. I can’t get out of my head the picture of this one girl who, when she couldn’t get what she wanted, would give the “I’m about to cry you’re the worst bully ever” look over anything. We could be talking about her trying to use an expired coupon for Rice-a-Roni and she’d look at you like you were responsible for holding her parents hostage.

So I look at the desperation of the Heart as not so much voiceless, but having one voice (“not a Voice to spare”).That one voice is generated through giving up logos, speech and reason. It is not clear to me this could ever be “Eloquence” truly, even though we’re talking about a primacy of desire that cannot and will not be denied. The primacy involved is so powerful it is dictating what our opinions about beauty and justice are. “That Eloquence” is what is “Confirming All.” The analysis – the breaking down – is stopping at that rather irrational point.

A weather metaphor (“fair,” “when”) might be a way around the problem. The analysis and confirmation of “the Opinion fair” are one time of our lives. That time cannot be “foul.” We’re reflecting on who we were and finding it continuous with who we are. And we’re making two huge mistakes.

First, we confirm “the Opinion fair,” but the cost is our own Eloquence. We think ourselves not eloquent; we were eloquent and might be eloquent again. Only our desperation, we think, tells who we are. Our analysis probably should not have concluded so quickly and fairly. Furthermore, by defining ourselves only as desperate – having incomplete desires – we pull ourselves out of time. “I’ve never changed!” No, you’ve changed, and what we want changes, even when we reach higher levels of maturity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.