Spring will soon give way to scorching summer days. Perhaps then, the intention behind Emily Dickinson’s extraordinary use of white, “Dare you see a Soul in the White Heat?” will be unambiguous.

Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?
Then crouch within the door –
Red – is the Fire’s common tint –
But when the vivid Ore

Has vanquished Flame’s conditions –
It quivers from the Forge
Without a color, but the Light
Of unanointed Blaze –

Least Village has its Blacksmith
Whose Anvil’s even ring
Stands symbol for the finer Forge
That soundless tugs – within –

Refining these impatient Ores
With Hammer, and with Blaze
Until the Designated Light
Repudiate the Forge –

“Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat? / Then crouch within the door -”.  It is a dare, as well as a warning. If I stop to look at fire’s ultimate temperatures, I cannot resist the white hot heart. Yet, if I don’t have proper respect for what a blacksmith mixes, using experienced skill, I can only gawk. Or, worse, get too close with amateur clumsiness.

When the cause, ..Fire’s common tint – / .. the vivid Ore” leads to its effect, the results promise transformation from liquid metal to precise instrument.  That is, if the blacksmith has learned how to make it happen, through learning, courage and intact belief.

Life may bring about what seems to me unbearable personal issues and abhorrent circumstances, “Flame’s conditions -”.

If so, then, rage “..quivers from the Forge”.

If I feel crushed and engulfed, I may become emotionally depressed, in other words, “Without a color, but the Light / Of unanointed Blaze -”

As in a play, right at the apex of the poem’s dramatic tension, we take a break. The poem’s picture, “Least Village has its Blacksmith / Whose Anvil’s even ring”, reminds me of a common site that is as customary as it is generally understood to be dangerous.

While I relax, it’s as if the poem takes me to a chatty place I can access through memories of various graphic illustrations of a blacksmith. Who hasn’t been enchanted by smithies in Victorian art? Western movies dramatized blacksmith shops repeatedly.

There’s a romantic quality to seeing a man’s tender skin in close proximity to a working anvil. Because horseshoes and other necessary implements painstakingly fabricated as the result of manipulating white-hot iron, “(s)tands symbol for the finer Forge”.

That which doesn’t kill me makes me.

Here’s the real dare. Do I have the courage, the guts, the moxie, the pluck to see my own soul – “That soundless tugs – within – ”?

The poem’s challenge in the final stanza is to take the time, love and self-reflection for “Refining these impatient Ores / With Hammer, and with Blaze”. My “ores” and yours won’t be the same. In fact, “my hammer and blaze” look somewhat different from my parents or my even my children’s. The tools of understanding, interest, talent, and weaknesses or sins, even circumstance and motivation obviously differ from person to person.

Still, the principle is the same. Eventually, the poem promises, you and I both will arrive at the Great “Until..”. I will have that sense of self benefited by  “… the Designated Light”.  Then, the old struggles will recede and die away, “Repudiate(d by) the Forge -” of personal conflicts.

Ponder A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way

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