National Poetry Day

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 lonely person

Into happiness again,

I shall not live in vain.

A favourite poem by 19th Century American poet, Emily Dickinson; it inspires my work.

I was struck that the version I am familiar with, published in 101 Poems To Keep You Sane, is different from the one I find everywhere else, whose 5th and 6th lines read ‘Or help one fainting robin / Unto his nest again,’ The meaning, however, feels the same, that pain is unavoidable but healing is possible.

3 thoughts on “National Poetry Day

  1. Immortal

    Many a times I felt, “My English ends here”
    Whenever I couldn’t or didn’t know what I felt
    Slowly I began to think-it’s not necessary either
    For, I have nothing to share, I’m self-sufficient.

    It so happened I read poems here and there
    And read somewhere poetry is the art greatest
    How can I not create something whose beauty is so pure
    Pen began to move, I could know what I felt

  2. Martin

    Hello – I came across your entry via Google. I am trying to establish whether the version of Dickinon’s “If I could stop one heart from breaking” that you quote (the one that reads “Or help one lonely person” etc.) is actually hers, or has been altered by someone else. It strikes me as odd that the metaphor (“fainting robin” etc.) has been removed from that version, it seems ‘simplified’ somehow, and I cannot find it in any anthology of Dickinson’s works. Do you know more about this? Thanks so much,

  3. Rachel Post author

    Hi Martin, thanks for your comment – I first came across this poem in the anthology I mentioned, edited by Daisy Goodwin. I’m afraid I don’t know anything more about it! It might be worth contacting the editor or the publisher Harper Collins… Good luck!

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