Review of “Let Me Not Mar That Perfect Dream” (1875)
Emily Dickinson (writer).
Read in 2021.
Not a riddle, and not quite one of Dickinson’s religious mysticist poems, despite the allusion to Eve in Genesis (ca. 500–400 BCE). I take the first stanza to be simple romanticism: Dreams are worthwhile, not frivolous, and the narrator therefore optimizes their life, night and day (“adjust my daily night”), to get the most out of dreams, avoiding their corruption by literal dawn or by the figurative light of reason (the “Auroral stain”). The first line of the second stanza may refer either to rationalism (“when we know”) in opposition (to dream) or to Yahweh (“the Power”) in the same role. The rest of the stanza rounds out the position that rationalism and certain knowledge are overestimated, by the analogy that they did not exist in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve stole fruit. The sentiment is a good half century out of date and the myth of Paradise is silly, but the composition is good.