No Man Can Compass A Despair: Summary & Analysis

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No Man can compass a Despair

No Man can compass a Despair-
As round a Goalless Road
No faster than a mile at once
The Traveller proceed-

Unconscious of the Width-
Unconscious that the Sun
By setting on His progress
So accurate the One

An estimate Pain-
Whose own-has just begun-
His ignorance- The Angel
That pilot Him along-

No Man can compass a Despair- As round a Goalless Road No faster than a mile at once The Traveller proceed-
No Man can compass a Despair

Summary and Analysis

      Dickinson defines the nature and dimensions of despair in 'No Man can compass a Despair'. It further deals with the origin of despair and its effect on human behavior. It is also revealed that the act of measuring despair is impossible. The structure of the poem is based on a very suggestive analogy. The poem is an example of negative abstraction. It admits her inability to exactly define the boundaries of despair. The nature of agony is developed by means of an analogy.

      The opening line of the poem asserts that nobody can absolutely comprehend the true nature of despair. It defies any kind of analysis or interpretation. The poet uses an analogy from the world nature to argue his case. He refers to a road which as no specific location. It does not go anywhere, does not get anywhere, never ends. It is not externally but internally laid in the vicinity of the mind. It is purely the creation of the mind. The vocabulary of this analogy, its road, mile, traveler, width, sun and progress shows the realistic background of the road in space. The man traveling on a goalless road is aware only of the individual moment, the individual mile, and cannot see the actual width, is not aware of the totality of time, that passes. His experience of this road is not of a goalless road but of an ordinary road.

      The traveler wants to know how far, how long the road extends. And this is why his very ignorance is his better guide in this critical situation, his pilot angel. The last two lines of the poem turn, with their metaphor, back into the analogical situation of the goalless road. He realizes that this experience is limitless and that he may turn mad from this knowledge. This possibility is indirectly implied in the poem.

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