Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?

"Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?," the third song in Copland's Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, explores the emotions attached to exclusion.

Date: 1950Composer: Aaron CoplandText: Emily DickinsonSong Collection: Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson

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The song begins questioningly and ends angrily, with Copland repeating the opening text and setting it almost identically in the music–but with different emotion. The soprano begins her pleading with the “minor” singing, then resorts to begging, and gets more desperate in repeating “Don’t shut the door!” (The piano mirrors the emotions with an accelerando.) The last stanza of the poem is set contemplatively. Finally, after the soprano’s last outburst, the piano is impassive and emotionless in the postlude, as if Heaven simply did not even notice the outburst.

Dickinson’s poetry often deals with death and questions regarding an afterlife, and this poem is no exception.

–Christie Finn



Why do they shut Me out of Heaven?
by Emily Dickinson

Why do they shut Me out of Heaven?
Did I sing too loud?
But I can say a little “Minor”
Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me
Just once more
Just see if I troubled them
But don’t shut the door!

Oh, if I were the Gentleman
In the “White Robe”
And they were the little Hand that knocked
Would I forbid?

[Why do they shut Me out of Heaven?
Did I sing too loud?]

Related Information

Sheet Music

Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson

Composer(s): Aaron Copland

Song(s): 1. Nature, the Gentlest Mother
2. There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
3. Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?
4. The World Feels Dusty
5. Heart, We Will Forget Him
6. Dear March, Come In!
7. Sleep is Supposed to Be
8. When They Come Back
9. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain
10. I've Heard an Organ Talk Sometimes
11. Going to Heaven!
12. The Chariot

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