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“We Never Know How High” (By Emily Dickinson): Analysis

The poem that follows is penned by one of the world’s immortal poets. It inspires us to greatness. I have undertaken an analysis of its message.


We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies.

The heroism we recite
Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the cubits warp
For fear to be a king.


The first stanza tells us impliedly that idealism is a worthy pursuit. It is what life should be, not what it is. There is nothing so ordinary as to want to be remarkable in our own way, but we never know how high the mark or height unless we “rise” to the occasion. How? First, we should have a “plan” or dream; then we drive towards that dream. It is walking the extra mile to be there. If we are lucky we can transform one dream into a thousand realities. It is only when we have proven ourselves equal to the challenge that we can say “our statures touch the sky”. It is our courage to do right that gives success its name. In short we can carve own fate— we can be what we want to be.

The second and last stanza suggests that success or “heroism” happens every day. It is not enough to stay at our comfort zone and watch people win while we allow ourselves to rot because we “fear to be a king.” Because we underestimate ourselves we are perverting or “warping” our God-given potentials to do great deeds. The truth is, we were not born great, but we have the potentials to do great deeds. Not all battles go to the strongest and the wisest. It is cowardice that sucks us of our self-esteem and self-respect. Remember that all winners at one time doubted themselves. While we fear to fail, in the same breath it is worse never to have succeeded.

Message: Try to discover and harness the best in yourself— to move from the realm of the impossible to the realm of the possible. Stamp this in your heart: God planned and charted this universe where everything is fundamentally right. It is never wrong to try to surpass yourself. If you can count the stars in a dark night it is useless to weep beneath them. Remember that hope is a waking dream. ###

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