“Why do I love” You, Sir?

"Why do I love" You, Sir?
What’s up with poem 480? This poem is also known as “Why do I love” You Sir? There is more to this poem than you might think!

What’s up with poem 480? This poem is also known as “Why do I love” You Sir? There is more to this poem than you might think!

So, if you decide to follow the text of this poem, you will think of this poem to be just another love poem. One that is written by Dickinson. So what?! There are so, so, so many love poems. Why analyse this one?  This poem is different because we know Dickinson’s history. She lived a solitary life, so why is she writing about love?

Emily Dickinson and …. The physical…

Okay, we know that Dickinson never got married. In case you’ve missed this – that is possible-, she had no boyfriend or man (or female friends for that matter).  Does this mean, that she was never involved with someone? There was and is a lot of speculation about her love life. These speculations include a so-called relationship during her childhood. She had a lot of male friends during her childhood and the days of young adulthood. One of them was George Gould. He was a classmate of her at Amherst College. Recent studies by biographers tell a different story.

During her time in college, she showed interest in female friends. More than a friendship. Among her female friends: Susan Huntington Gilbert (her later sister-in-law) and Catherine Scott Turner Anthon.

"Master / If you saw a bullet hit a bird"
“Master / If you saw a bullet hit a bird”
Source: Amherst College Archives and Special Collections / Emily Dickinson Museum.


Set aside those relationships that might or might not have been serious. There is still a bigger mystery. In the legacy of Dickinson, three letters could not be determined as it comes to who she addressed in these letters. She called the addressee Master. Was this someone who she was involved with or was there a deeper meaning to these letters? Master may well have been a way to express her thoughts for God. Or was this perhaps her literary master? If this last scenario is the most accurate, then there is still a question to be asked who her literary master was? Was this Samuel Bowles? Bowles wasn’t just only a friend of the family, he was also a newspaper editor and publisher. Was Dickinson thinking of publishing a book? If this is true, then Dickinson was busy with her publication as of 1858. Why didn’t she publish her work? The other two letters were written in 1861 (at the beginning and during the summer).

Or was the Master someone else? William Smith Clark, the scientist and educator who also lived in Amherst? Charles Wadsworth, the Minister who she met in Philadelphia? Or George Gould? Or was this Master someone or something darker than we can think of? Remember, the usage of the word Master in the days of Dickinson differs from that we nowadays use. We all know the term Master and slave when it comes to slavery. Or Master as in Master of Darkness (the devil). Or was this a more positive approach? Her Master might have been God.

The three letters seem to be drafted, as they were written with a pencil and several sentences have been crossed. In these letters, Dickinson describes herself as Daisy. A beautiful name for a girl, but also a name for a weed-like pest. There is no indication, that these letters have been sent through.

So, what has this all to do with poem 480? Well, this is a poem that also talks about a “Sir.” Just as she did in her letters. She addressed her Master as Sir. This poem can be considered as a love poem, but for who?

This isn’t just one of those love poems. This is a poem that is written for her lover or for God? When writing about religious aspects, people tend to use capitals. Take for instance the words Him as in God or even the word god itself; God.

Depending on what scenario you prefer, this is a great poem! It questions love and why there is such a feeling of love. Or is it? It gives us a presentation about why there is love. Dickinson knows that there is so much evidence that His love is all around. Yes, based on that information, you might want to reconsider your opinion.

How was someone that was secluded to her room capable of writing such a poem? Such a love poem? One cannot help to think, that there was more… much more!

"Why do I love" You, Sir?

“Why do I love” You, Sir?


“Why do I love” You, Sir?
Because —
The Wind does not require the Grass
To answer — Wherefore when He pass
She cannot keep Her place.

Because He knows — and
Do not You —
And We know not —
Enough for Us
The Wisdom it be so —

The Lightning — never asked an Eye
Wherefore it shut — when He was by —
Because He knows it cannot speak —
And reasons not contained —
— Of Talk —
There be — preferred by Daintier Folk —

The Sunrise — Sire — compelleth Me —
Because He’s Sunrise — and I see —
Therefore — Then —
I love Thee —

Emily Dickinson

"Why do I love" You, Sir?
Article Name
"Why do I love" You, Sir?
Read more about the love life of Emily Dickinson.
Publisher Name
The Ministry of Poetic Affairs

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