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The poem “The Moon was but a Chin of Gold” is written by Emily Dickinson. The poem was first published in 1896. Dickinson uses metaphorical language, comparing the moon to a beautiful woman. The title itself suggests that the moon is a slender crescent, described as a “Chin of Gold.” This implies a delicate sliver of golden light, evoking a sense of elegance. Throughout the poem, Dickinson captures the changing aspects of the moon, weaving a comparison between its celestial beauty and the allure of a woman.
About the poet
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was a prominent American poet. She was an important influence on American Literature. She had published numerous poems, including “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”, “Because I could not stop for Death” and “A Bird came down the Walk”. She captures moments of nature in a vivid and insightful manner. Dickinson’s ability to convey complex ideas with simplicity has contributed to her enduring influence in the realm of American poetry.
The poem is a lyric poem written in 5 quatrains. Each stanza consists of four lines.
The Moon was but a Chin of Gold A Night or two ago – And now she turns Her perfect Face Upon the World below –
The first stanza talks about the different phases of the moon. Earlier the moon was a small sliver like the chin but now it is a full moon. Initially, she portrays the moon as a small sliver, drawing a comparison to a delicate chin covered in gold. As the stanza progresses, the poet notes the transformation of the moon into a full, round shape. At this point, the moon shines its complete face onto the world below. This transition from a slender crescent to a full moon highlights the changing beauty of the celestial body
The poem starts by comparing how the crescent phase of the moon looked like a chin. The moon’s crescent arc looked like a golden chin to the poet. But now due to the change in the phases of the moon, the moon has turned into a full moon. Here the poet compares the full moon to the face of a woman. She says that the full moon looks perfect and hangs in the night sky while looking down on the world below.
Her Forehead is of Amplest Blonde – Her Cheek – a Beryl hewn – Her Eye unto the Summer Dew The likest I have known –
The poet then describes the beauty of the full moon in this stanza. She says that the forehead of the moon looks like a blond head. The cheeks look like Beryl hewn and the eyes shine like the summer dew under the moonlight. The poet is unable to make any more comparisons and says that those are the closest to the beauty of the moon.
The poet extends the metaphor created in the first stanza. She continues to compare the moon to a human face and talks about its features like the “Forehead”, “Cheek” and “Eye”. Here the Forehead refers to the top part of the moon. Because it reflects sunlight in the evening it gives off the color of golden blonde. So the poet says that it looks like the moon has a head full of blonde hair.
Then she talks about the cheeks, the circumference, of the moon which are hewn in Beryl. Beryl is a pale blue color. In the late evening, the moon’s circumference shines a pale blue light. Then the poet talks about the Eye of the moon. Here the Eye is the moonlight of the moon. The moonlight shines onto the summer dew on earth. These are the only comparisons that the poet can make and they become the “likeliest” to what she wants to describe.
Her Lips of Amber never part – But what must be the smile Upon Her Friend she could confer Were such Her Silver Will –
In the following lines, the poet describes the moon’s lips as amber and notes that they never part in a smile. The moon, personified as a woman, doesn’t smile upon her friend. This is emphasized as a deliberate choice, suggesting that the moon intentionally refrains from smiling. The poet, through this personification, adds a layer of mystery to the moon’s character, implying a certain reluctance or intentional restraint in sharing a smiling expression.
In this stanza the poet once again reinforces the femininity of the moon. The moon’s lips are amber. But she does not part her lips to smile at anyone. The moon does not smile at “her Friend”. Here the friend could be the sun. The sun shines bright in the day but at night the sky is ruled by the moon. The moon is prideful and this does not smile upon the sun. The use of the term “Silver will” shows how the moon is treated like an empress by the poet.
And what a privilege to be But the remotest Star – For Certainty She take Her Way Beside Your Palace Door –
In this stanza the poet talks about the relationship between the sun and the moon. She says that it is a privilege for the sun to know that the moon takes her place at the door of the sun’s palace. This description suggests a sense of honor or special significance in the moon’s role, as if it holds a position of distinction in the sky. The idea of the moon being at the door of the sun’s palace evokes an image of a cosmic arrangement, reinforcing a harmonious connection between these celestial bodies.
In this stanza, the poet draws a comparison between the sun and the moon. The sun is described as the “Remotest star,” suggesting its distant and powerful nature. Meanwhile, the moon is portrayed as being present in the sky as if sitting beside the “Palace Door” of the Sun. This reference to the “Palace Door” could symbolize the western side where the sun sets. The poet describes how the moon emerges from this door and shines in the night sky. This imagery paints a picture of the moon taking its place as the sun sets, casting its glow over the world
Her Bonnet is the Firmament – The Universe – Her Shoe – The Stars – the Trinkets at Her Belt – Her Dimities – of Blue –
The poet then describes the rest of the night sky in comparison to the moon. She metaphorically compares the sky as the bonnet of the moon, suggesting that the moon holds a central and prominent place in the sky. The universe is compared to her shoe, emphasizing the vastness of the night sky in which the moon is set. The stars, in this imagery, become like trinkets on her belt, adding a sense of adornment and beauty to the celestial display. The dress of the moon is described as the blue of the sky
In the last stanza the poet brings together the entire night sky and compares them to the ornaments of the moon. Like a woman’s bonnet, the dome shape of the sky becomes the bonnet of the moon. The entire universe becomes the shoe that the moon wears. And just like the trinkets on the belt of a beautiful woman, the stars and constellations in the night sky form the trinkets on the belt of the moon. The “Dimities” was a type of clothing for women. The poet says that the dress of the moon is the blue of the night sky.