For an analysis of a marriage gone bad there is Emily Dickinson’s “I gave Myself to Him — ”. 

When I was bombarded by overwhelming, contradictory emotions and physical depletions in the onset of the demise of my marriage, I ran across this poem.  

It was helpful to me because of its attention to what went wrong; how a good marriage and bad one differ only by the level of its partners’ fulfillment. The poem’s dispassionate insight removes the blame that keeps me from making the trek from dedicated commitment to release of dreams.

I found uncommon comfort by reading it repeatedly.  When my mind was in chaos, the poem’s pure logic provided rest to blitzed out calm.

I gave Myself to Him — 

And took Himself, for Pay — 

The solemn contract of a Life

Was ratified, this way — 


The Wealth might disappoint — 

Myself a poorer prove

Than this great Purchaser suspect,

The Daily Own — of Love


Depreciate the Vision — 

But till the Merchant buy — 

Still Fable — in the Isles of spice — 

The subtle Cargoes —  lie — 


At least — ’tis Mututal — Risk — 

Some — found it — Mutual Gain — 

Sweet Debt of Life — Each Night to owe — 

Insolvent — every Noon — 

I think it helps that I am more than a little materialistic (I’m not proud of this; it’s just the way it is) when I read the first stanza’s sardonic “took Himself, for Pay —” and ratified. Words that comfort when trying the impossible: let go.

The second stanza offers cold reasoning for the need to move on: emotional payoff of the relationship is nil.  The irony of owning love is severe, but, when a committed relationship has not resulted in “Mutual Gain —” (final stanza), that is all that’s left. My disintegrating heart has to grapple with depreciat(ing) vision. 

The poem’s third stanza deals with undue guilt by saying until you are committed, happiness is a fable. The “subtle Cargoes (of what a person truly is made of) lie” beneath the personality.  Whether happy or unhappy, any contractual relationship starts each day based on the underlying truth of each individual. There are no guarantees for we are all “Insolvent — every Noon —”.   The other person may, or may not, be worthy of our “Sweet Debt of Life—”.


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way