Emily Dickinson, “Not so the infinite Relations” (1040)

Not so the infinite Relations (1040)
Emily Dickinson

Not so the infinite Relations — Below
Division is Adhesion’s forfeit — On High
Affliction but a Speculation — And Woe
A Fallacy, a Figment, We knew —


The initial, surface gloss. There are “infinite Relations” as opposed to “finite.” Thus, there are two realms. One below, with division. The very concept of ‘sticking together’ has left us. One above, where being pained (“affliction”) is impossible, and previous pain (“Woe”) is unreal.

So: is all former pain unreal? That can’t – shouldn’t – be right.

We need to try again with “infinite Relations” – how does this crazy world work? – and one has to make a denial (“Not so”) to grasp the problem. What is being denied? The “infinite Relations?” What sense does that make? It means we are concerned with a number of finite relations and finite relations simply. Finite relations as numbered? Yeah, these are relationships. Unlike the deity’s mercy, there is only so much distrust and bitterness that can fester between us.

Accordingly, we can divide the “relations” into three realms: “Adhesion’s forfeit” (non-purposeful break-ups, being dumped), “Division” (a higher realm than the first), “On High.” Division makes “division” central and allows for painless, supposedly whole “On High” to exist. “On High” is both logical (“Fallacy”) and imaginary (“Figment”). But what we knew was Woe. We don’t even have that anymore.

1 Comment

  1. Emily writes that it is not so that the transcendent and earthly realms extend into each other or intersect infinitely. On earth, the heavenly bonds of friendship and love collapse under the weight of humanly conflict. Likewise, human affliction extends not into the higher realms.

    This would prevent the truth of Christ, of course; if the transcendent and earthly realms cannot overlap, the being who is fully human and fully divine could not exist. Woe—that existential despair explained by the death of Christ—would be a fallacy or figment, if known before …?

    Emily leaves a dash, a suggestion that her thought is unfinished and unfinished at precisely the point when she discards the entire logic. Why does she discard it? Him who is infinite Relations has revealed himself, and woe became very real after the death of him, since then, Him on high was afflicted for sake of overcoming division below. Woe, traditionally, is the feeling of despair upon the loss of Christ, not properly an expression of human condition, Christians will recall. Infinite relations are reestablished by Christ.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *