Emily Dickinson, pictured in the preceding article in the only known image of her as an adult, wrote nearly 1,800 poems, although she never saw the majority published. As discussed in the accompanying article, Dickinson’s poems have deep personal spiritual meaning, and many make reference, sometimes quite subtly, to the Bible. Six of her poems on biblical themes are reprinted below.
The photo above shows the original manuscript of “The Bible is an antique Volume,” written in 1882, and provides a glimpse into Dickinson’s writing process. The poem is unusual for having a title (most of Dickinson’s poems did not) and is a fine example of the precision with which she chose her words. Compare the published poem, reprinted below, with her original notes, on the manuscript, where initial word possibilities are coupled with second choices. “Judas—the first Defaulter” becomes “Judas—the Great Defaulter” in line 7; on the second page (partially hidden) a passage is crossed out entirely. Manuscript and photograph courtesy Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.