Emily Dickinson filter: Remember content but not words
January 4, 2017 4:17 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a particular poem by Emily Dickinson. As I recall it was just four lines ( but could be six) saying, in essence, 'I didn't realize the weight of the burden I was carrying until someone else started to help me carry it.' Please quote me the poem, and/or its number. Thanks!
posted by uans to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you positive it was Emily Dickinson? This sounds so much like:

The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
posted by janey47 at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Not that one, sorry. Also the message is wrong. The narrator was given real help, not sorrow. It was about the difficulty of loneliness. The narrator felt relieved of part of her burden. 'A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved' sort of thing
posted by uans at 4:53 PM on January 4, 2017

This doesn't sound like Dickinson at all. Can you be far more specific? Do you have an exact quote?

This is the one that came to mind as closest:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain
posted by zizzle at 6:00 PM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe this online concordance will be of help?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2017

you are going to want to kill everybody telling you it's not Dickinson but I only ask because I thought of this instantly: is there any chance it's the William Blake that starts out with:

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

(yeah I know it's hardly anything like how you described it, thematically. if I am wrong I am a fool but if I am right i am a genius.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:24 PM on January 4, 2017

It's very similar to a common unknown quote:
“Sometimes you don't realize the weight of something you've been carrying, until you feel the weight of its release.” ~UNKNOWN
posted by saradarlin at 7:39 PM on January 4, 2017

You're not a fool, queenofbithynia, but that's not it.

Zizzle, I am *asking* for the quote. I could google it easily if my poor excuse of a memory could summon up one whole line

Maybe it wasn't Dickinson-- but it was 4 lines that said 'I did not realize how heavy my load was until someone picked up the other end and made it lighter for me.'
Nothing to do with anger
Nothing to do with being hurt

Thanks, and please keep trying. It's been driving me crazy
posted by uans at 8:04 PM on January 4, 2017

Maybe 1197?

I should not dare to be so sad
So many Years again --
A Load is first impossible
When we have put it down --

The Superhuman then withdraws
And we who never saw
The Giant at the other side
Begin to perish now."
posted by the_dusty at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

The quote you describe is a very famous anonymous quote that is pretty much as you say it is. I've seen that one since before the common use of the internet. What strikes me about what you're saying that makes me think this isn't Dickinson is that Dickinson didn't ever really write about "practical help." It's usually metaphor and personification for her. She's walking and someone pulls over to give her a ride in a carriage, but it's Death. That sort of thing. OR, she'd go the other way and describe things as she saw them as with the a bird on the walkway and the way night again becomes morning. She wasn't much of a narrative poet to describe people doing things.

One thing I would suggest you try is to contact your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian and ask them this. They often have better ways of searching or know where to look that's a little more direct or reliable. I did this once a while back with a relatively popular reference on the internet that kept being attributed to Emerson, but I had read all of Emerson and the quote was not even vaguely familiar or in line with his work. So I scoured my notes, looked through all the essays that it seemed most likely to come from, and couldn't find it at all. Then I contacted a librarian through a chat help thing with my local library and they took about a week and got back to me that they had looked everywhere and the only place they could find this quote being attributed was in random places all over the internet. They'd even reached out to the Emerson Society. We never learned where the quote actually came from, but at least I learned it wasn't Emerson. You may want to try contacting the Emily Dickinson Museum or the Poetry Foundation,
posted by zizzle at 4:01 AM on January 5, 2017

The-dusty that is it! Really you are a miracle worker. The funny thing is I tried 'load' in that concordance Monkeytoes suggested and nothing came up-- perhaps just an ipad glitch. Thank you so much
posted by uans at 7:38 AM on January 5, 2017

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