Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church

by Emily Dickinson


Original Language English

Some keep the Sabbath going to the Church --
I keep it, staying at Home --
With a Bobolink for a Chorister --
And an Orchard, for a Dome --

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice --
I just wear my Wings --
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton -- sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman --
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last --
I'm going, all along.

-- from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by Thomas H. Johnson

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Here Emily Dickinson seems to suggest that true worship occurs at home -- or within oneself -- rather than in the public domain of church. She celebrates a worship that is simple, essential, direct.

For her, trees form the roof of her church ("an Orchard, for a Dome"). The living world near-at-hand is her place of worship. Local songbirds form her choir. It is in her solitary moments and her private communions with nearby nature that Dickinson encounters the sacred.

She finds within this interior world that God preaches to her directly -- "a noted Clergyman" indeed!

I especially love the closing lines:

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —
I'm going, all along.


The journey to heaven has become a part of her, it fills her entire world. It is not relegated to the future, after death or at some end time, but a continuous unfolding in the present.



Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology)
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The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
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Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women
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The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry
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American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich
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Some keep the