Emily Dickinson “There is no Frigate like a Book”

Emily Dickinson “There is no Frigate like a Book” February 10, 2014

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Courses like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.


I enjoy so many of my girl Emily’s poems. I particularly love this one on the power of the written word to transport and transform the reader. This theme seems especially fitting for her, given that she rarely spent anytime outside of Amherst, MA, let alone the bedroom in the home she entered the world in. Despite her reclusive ways, she engages the mystery and marvel of existence with such surprising wit and wisdom.

This poem reminds me of the Cambridge bar scene in “Good Will Hunting.” Will (played by Matt Damon) is calling out the pony-tailed Harvard grad student for being a shmuck by trying to make Chuckie (played by Ben Affleck) look dumb in front of some single ladies.

Will says, “See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a $%*!@# education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!”

There you go: Emily Dickinson’s poem quasi-translated for the modern world by another Massachusetts native. “How do you like them apples?”


Emily Dickinson, “There is no Frigate like a Book,”  The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Little, Brown and Company, 1960).

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