Safe in their Alabaster Chambers by Emily Dickinson: Summary and Analysis

This poem is about the dead buried in the grave. The dead are described as the meek members of the resurrection" sleeping safe in their graves, which are described as 'alabaster chambers'. They remain there untouched by temporal processes like the mornings or noon. The 'alabastrine chambers' has a satin (of the coffin) as their rafter and stone (of the grave) as their roof. The comparison is a lithe far-fetched and reminds us of metaphysical conceits.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The world of the dead is like a castle of sunshine where the breeze blows gently and the bees babble to the inanimate ears of the dead. Sweet birds sing in innocent cadences. But now they remain unmoved and inanimate to the melody of the breeze, the humming of the bee and the sweet music of birds. But all of the same themes—the theme of the sagacity of people perished and buried there. 'Outside of the graves of the dead, the world experiences its usual changes; years go by, Worlds change fast in their arcs and firmaments may be disturbed. Crowns and kingdoms may fall and magisterial power may surrender. All these violent changes, shocking as they are to the world of the living, are ineffectively as dots in a disc of snow to the dead. They fall upon the dead as silently as dots on a disk of snow. The Alabastrine purity of their homes is not disturbed by happenings in the world of the survivors.

This lyric poem stands for the Christianity view and religious concepts of Emily Dickinson. She has a strong belief that faithfulness in Christ is to achieve eternal peace and the death is not the end but the beginning of the new energized life. She presents death here as a friendly and the only way to the home of God. Though the tone of the poem is peaceful, it is emphatic on behalf of showing one’s belief. Here her representation of the death is not shown in a gloomy manner, rather in an optimistic way to the final freedom of the earthly fluctuations. The life after death is real for the poet. The dead one in the tomb is in deep sleep, but it is not eternal, they will all wake up when the resurrection occurs according to the Bible. The concept of resurrection comes from the conviction of Christianity that Jesus will come again and the meek one(the dead) will too rise and go to the heavenly abode.

There is some imagery which is related to the theme of Christianity. In the first stanza "meek members of the resurrection" refers to the bible verse Mathew 5:5 which reads like this “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." In the second stanza, the words "safe", from "evil", and peacefully waiting for the "resurrection", and the "Crescent" that is above the dead one refers to the heaven.

Beside the theme and imagery of Christianity, Emily Dickinson slowly takes the reader to the theme of death without even using the direct word. The dead are safe and sound under the earth in their tombstone. They are untouched and carefree about the changes that takes place on the outer part of the earth where the living beings reside. The morning, the noon, day, night, years, decade, and seasons, even the empire change, but the people in the chambers are unaffected. They are safe from the war and the unpleasant changes. They are safe even from the worldly anxieties and sorrows. Nothing ever changes them and no change takes place on them too. They are no longer affected by time, they are safely sleeping, sheltered by their chambers. With this fact, we can conclude that even though we may die, time still goes on. The earth keeps rotating, and life keeps on going, but we, as the dead, have no role to play.

Everyone on the earth is a subject to death. No matter how powerful you are, how much wealth you collect, at last you will be claimed by death. Diadems drop and Doges surrender; even though we may gain titles, power and materials things, in the end, nothing comes with us after death. Someone will come to replace us and we surrender to death's will. In the end, we are just like the soundless dots on a disk of snow. We become more insignificant with the passing of time, and we are silent in our sleep.

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Shrestha, Roma. "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers by Emily Dickinson: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 8 Jan. 2018,