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The quote is from an Emily Dickinson poem, and I have been meditating on it for a while now. Let me share my thoughts. Like most of Dickinson’s poems, this poem is untitled. The poems were posthumously numbered when published in the scholarly collection by Thomas H. Johnson in 1955. Dickinson knew nothing of the numbering.
My Johnson edition reaches 1,775 poems, an incredible opus, all but ten unpublished in Dickenson’s lifetime. If you are not familiar with Dickinson’s biography, you can read the Wikipedia entry. In summary, she was a reclusive woman, unmarried, living in Amherst, MA, writing poetry all of her life and saving them in boxes with few people even aware of them. Like all her untitled poems, which I believe were almost all, the opening line usually serves as the poem’s title. “As Imperceptibly as Grief” is number 1540, written in 1865 when Emily was about 35 years old. The numbering does not reflect a chronological ordering. Here is the poem.