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There’s a certain Slant of Light

Theresa Sowerby | Monday September 03, 2012


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Introduction and Biography | Features of Dickinson’s Style | Themes and Subject Matter | Poem by Poem Analysis | Sample Answer

A Selection of Poems

Based on the requirements of OCR unit F661.

Note: individual analyses with potential links with other poems marked in blue.


  1. Poem 258: There’s a certain Slant of Light
  2. Poem 280: I felt a Funeral in my Brain
  3. Poem 341: After great pain, a formal feeling comes
  4. Poem 465: I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
  5. Poem 501: This World is not Conclusion
  6. Poem 510: It was not Death, for I stood up
  7. Poem 712: Because I could not stop for Death
  8. Poem 721: Behind Me - dips Eternity
  9. Poem 754: My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
  10. Poem 1400: What mystery pervades a well!
  11. Poem 670: One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted & Exemplar Exam Answer

1. Poem 258: There’s a certain Slant of Light

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Points to consider:

  • What type of experience is being described?
  • How is the slant of light used to convey the feeling?
  • What is striking about the final stanza metrically and in its content?


This four stanza poem is metrically complex with, in stanza one, the usual eight syllables in lines one and three contracted to seven and the usual six syllables in lines two and four becoming five. The stress pattern creates an irregular rhythm. Most of Dickinson’s poems have an ABCB rhyme scheme with skilful use of slant or half rhyme. In the first three stanzas this pattern is followed; only lines two and four are rhymed. It is therefore...

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