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

I like the way Emily Dickinson talks about true worship being at home -- or within oneself -- rather than requiring church. She celebrates a worship that is simple, essential, direct.

For her, trees form the roof of her church ("an Orchard, for a Dome").

It is in her solitary moments and her private communions with nearby nature that Dickinson hears her sermons. 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, but a continuous unfolding in the present.



Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
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Some keep the