- If I can stop one Heart from breaking
- I shall not live in vain
- If I can ease one Life the Aching
- Or cool one Pain
- Or help one fainting Robin
- Unto his Nest again
- I shall not live in Vain.
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was born into a distinguished Amherst, Massachusetts, family: her grandfather was a founder of Amherst College and her father a distinguished attorney and U.S. congressman. A brilliant student, Emily Dickinson entered Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary when she was 17, but she withdrew within the first year, possibly because of poor health but possibly also because her refusal to sign an oath professing her Christian faith marked her as an apostate and made life at the seminary uncomfortable. Far less Romantic in language and tone and far more modern in sensibility and phrasing than the poetry of most other 19th-century American poets, hers is clearly the work of a poetic talent of the highest caliber. There are several versions of many of Dickinson’s poems, and it is generally impossible to know which version is the final or definitive one. The version of the poem printed here is in public domain.