Wouldn’t you love to find heaven on earth? If so, Emily Dickinson’s little poem offers food for thought. My comments follow.
Who has not found the Heaven – below –
Will fail of it above –
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove –
Emily Dickinson, Poem #1543
Found on Wikisource.org
When I went looking for this poem, I found a second version. One of the pitfalls of having poems published is dealing with editors who think they have a better way of saying things. In general, Emily’s cryptic, almost abrupt speech and layout betrays her hand.
Just for comparison, here’s the edited version that’s out there. All cleaned up and, from my perspective, changed in its meaning.
Who has not found the heaven below
Will fail of it above.
God’s residence is next to mine,
His furniture is love.
Found in Emily Dickinson, Collected Poems, published by Courage Books 1991
Sweet, but not what Emily wrote.
In the poem at the top, Emily says the key to finding Heaven lies with us, not with God or even with Angels. Not because they don’t exist, but because it all depends on our ability to recognize them. Not high above this earth, but right beside us, no matter where we are.
Emily suggests that each of our neighbors has the capacity to point us toward Heaven. It isn’t because they have deep theological insights, or preach sermons or make statements about heaven. Nor is it because they’re perfect, glow in the dark, or have wings and shining robes.
Rather, it’s because from time to time they bring a bit of heaven into our lives. Just when we most need it. It doesn’t matter what they believe or don’t believe about angels. What matters is that they bring a bit of heaven into our lives. Just when we most need it, even though we don’t always like to admit we’re needy.
This little poem seems to put us on notice. Emily isn’t asking us to become Angels. She’s asking us to keep our eyes open for Angels. They may show up on our doorsteps when we least expect them. Not from Heaven, but from “the House next to ours.”
This life offers preparation for something beyond our current sight. Not doctrinal proof of Heaven or of Angels. Rather, a whisper, a suggestion, a hint of reality that visits us from time to time. Especially when we’re in need, whether we realize it or not.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to accept help from Angels who aren’t wearing brilliant robes or sprouting wings from their shoulders. They might look like the people next door, or just around the corner, or standing next to us in the checkout line at the grocery store. We may have decided they couldn’t possibly be angels.
Yet there they are, momentary messengers from God who let us know we’re not alone. With their words and deeds they show us a bit of what Heaven looks like on this earth. All so that we’ll recognize it “above.”
Have you been visited lately by an Angel?
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2017
Painting: Granville Redmond (1871-1935), A Sunset Sacrament
Found at parabola-magazine-tumblr.com