Emily Dickinson, “Why Do I Love You Sir?”My American Poetry Review

“Why do I love” You, Sir?

dance in city (2)

Renoir’s Dance in the City, Musee D’Orsay

In this beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, “Why do I Love’ You, Sir?” , love cannot be explained by reason or logic. Dickinson, also the speaker, responds each time with a childlike anaphora “Because — ” followed by an example of nature.  Dickinson’s minimal use of punctuation, her signature em dashes throughout and one period,to signify an ease and freedom of language.  She also uses capitalization of significant personal pronouns: We, Us, Her, He, Me, concluding with the old English pronoun Thee as a possible tribute to Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?”(1850).  In addition, her use of capitalization signifies an analogist comparison of love vs nature: Wind, Grass, Lightning, and Sunrise.

 The four stanzas  are divided by the elements of God’s creation,which man has no control over, and the basis for romantic love:  sometimes there is no logic or reason to explain this overwhelming feeling for someone. It just happens.  Dickinson explains her feelings of love just as, “The Wind does not require the Grass/  To answer— / Wherefore when he pass” and “The Lightning— never asked an Eye/ Wherefore it shut—…”, presumably, there is no choice.  There is no explanation that can be put into words for such a phenomenon. Dickinson also suggests that her love is forbidden as “He knows it cannot speak—…by Daintier Folk”.

In the final stanza, the speaker explains to her love, whom she calls “Sir”, that just as the Sunrise has compelled her to, she will love.

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“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—
Copyright 2016 by Robyn Lowrie.  May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)

2 thoughts on “Emily Dickinson, “Why Do I Love You Sir?”My American Poetry Review

  1. Love moves along the wings of nature as if God created the world to reflect the glory of true love. The poem speaks of the natural depths of abiding love. Good post and reflections

  2. This is a tribute to our love: two unlikely souls, on two different paths in life; joined by God’s grace for His purposes. “Why do I love, you, Sir?” The Sunrise ( and our glorious sunsets in EP) commands me.

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