What I find so intriguing in “Heart not so heavy as mine” is the pleasure underlying a relationship that doesn’t necessarily have much to say, at least in dialogue together. Emily Dickinson describes in the poem a heavy heart, without explaining its cause. The important thing is the serendipity when someone else, who’s having a good day, lightens the heart of another, the speaker, without even knowing it. 

Heart not so heavy as mine

Wending late home — 

As it passed my window

Whistled itself a tune — 


A careless snatch — a ballad — 

A Ditty of the street — 

Yet to my irritated ear

An anodyne so sweet — 


It was as if a Bobolink

Sauntering this way

Carolled and mused, and carolled — 

Then bubbled slow away — 


It was as if a chirping brook

Opon a toilsome way

Set bleeding feet to minuets

Without the knowing why — 


Tomorrow — night will come again — 

Perhaps — tired and sore — 

Oh Bugle, by the window

I pray you stroll once more! 

The picture conjured for me is of somebody who has wakened on the “wrong side of the bed” or, perhaps, is filled with sorrow over a private loss or injury. She or he is sitting alone, not really feeling up for the day, or the evening’s plans.

The window is open.

Cars going by, railroad whistles, sirens, all go unnoticed. But, in a moment of quiet someone outside is walking briskly, whistling Bruce Springsteen. It’s not a Puccini aria or a Vivaldi classic, but the passerby’s mood is infectious. Feet that had been “bleeding” may tomorrow again be sick of the responsibilities thrust upon her. The poem anticipates when “tired and sore”, he will trudge on.

But, for this moment, rock ‘n roll gives an exalted (minuet) feeling. “A careless snatch — a ballad — /A Ditty of the street — /Yet to my irritated ear/An anodyne so sweet — …Set bleeding feet to minuets”.

Gratitude for the stranger, I believe, also acknowledges opening of the speaker’s heart.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way