Poem 158 – “Dying! Dying in the night” is an answer to another poem. A poem was written by William Blake (1757 – 1827). It shows that Dickinson was not blind when it came to the works of other writers and poets.
Poem 158 vs. “The Tyger”
When you’re not aware of the fact that this poem, Poem 158, is an attempt to write an answer to another poem (William Blake’s “The Tyger”), it’s a poem about someone who knows he or she will eventually die. When this moment arrives, it will all be a matter about passing into the everlasting snow.
Blake didn’t write about a human, but a tiger (tyger). Did he? The tiger could be a metaphor for someone strong but knows the end is near.
Why did Dickinson write about passing on into snow? Well, snow is purity. Just the same purity as the light in the forest Blake describes. Snow is often used as a metaphor for purity or a virtue. It’s something heavenly.
Instead of finding some peace at these last moments, Dickinson asks where Jesus is. Perhaps she is scared to be forgotten or perhaps it’s because of others. Others who prevent Jesus from coming to her house, to get her.
The footsteps aren’t from Jesus himself, but they have the same impact. These footsteps result in taking someone’s life. Maybe these are from Dollie and there should be no fear. Or better: no more fear, the end is near!
Perhaps she describes a crime?
The tiger – sorry, the Tyger – in Blake’s poem seems to do the same. He lures around and it seems that he is the bringer of immortality. Immortality is one thing, but death is another thing. The two of them are related. Once you’re dead, you become immortal.
Well, have it your way. You decide it!
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
— William Blake (1757 – 1827)
Poem 158 – “Dying! Dying in the night”
Dying! Dying in the night!
Won’t somebody bring the light
So I can see which way to go
Into the everlasting snow?
And “Jesus”! Where is Jesus gone?
They said that Jesus — always came —
Perhaps he doesn’t know the House —
This way, Jesus, Let him pass!
Somebody run to the great gate
And see if Dollie’s coming! Wait!
I hear her feet upon the stair!
Death won’t hurt — now Dollie’s here!