Nature Writings: ‘The dwelling earthward’

  • Joan Kirkby
Part of the Women Writers book series (WW)


Throughout her poems and letters Emily Dickinson celebrates ‘The Fact that Earth is Heaven — / Whether Heaven is Heaven or not’ (1408). ‘Each of us,’ she wrote, ‘gives or takes heaven in corporeal person, for each of us has the skill of life’ (L 388). Her desire, she wrote, was to ‘build the dwelling earthward whose site is in the skies —’ (L 50). When her family, school friends and peers joined in conversion to Christianity Dickinson alone refrained, celebrating her attachment to the earth: ‘the world allured me & in an unguarded moment I listened to her syren voice. From that moment I seemed to lose my interest in heavenly things by degrees’ (L 11). ‘The world’, she said, ‘holds a predominant place in my affections’ (L 13).


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  1. 1.
    C. Kerenyi, ‘Kore’ in C.G. Jung and C. Kerenyi, Science of Mythology: Essays on the Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis (London, Melbourne and Henley, Ark Paperbacks, 1985), p. 153.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Tom Chetwynd, A Dictionary of Symbols (London, Paladin, 1982), pp. 345–6.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Erich Neumann, The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype (Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 51.Google Scholar
  4. See also Janet and Colin Bord, Earth Rites (London, Paladin, 1983)Google Scholar
  5. Nor Hall, The Moon and the Virgin: Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine (London, The Women’s Press, 1980)Google Scholar
  6. Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1985)Google Scholar
  7. Barbara G. Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1983).Google Scholar

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© Joan Kirkby 1991

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  • Joan Kirkby

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