The poem may be read in a number of different, if related ways ; in psychological terms as an exploration of depression and elation ; in spiritual terms as an exploration of hope and despair ; in sexual terms as an exploration of the conflict between freedom and restraint. In stanzas one and two the soul is portrayed as a terrified woman,helpless before the intention of an unwelcome other. The imagery realise heavily on personification as some figure observes her in her moment of weakness. The imagery is deeply sensuous as Fright is described carressing the souls ‘freezing hair’.
The dashes of the opening lines capture the increasing fear of the soul. The introduction of the lover may suggest the conflicting desires of Lust and Love. Stanzas three and four break free of the atmosphere of threat, dread and claustrophobia that dominates the first two stanzas. Now the images suggest sensuous pleasure, freedom, warmth and fulfilment. Whereas the smilie ‘like a bomb’ strikes a note of caution, the reference to detonation may also suggest that moment of ultimate fulfilment, the climax of ecstasy.
In there verses the souls escape is exuberant. May suggest an intense period of psychological elation. In stanzas five and six the imagery of shackles and staples is striking, and contrast with imagery of fright often used by Dickinson, to denote joy and happiness. There is a strong suggestion that the speaker is restrained, by her own guilt, as the image of the ‘Fellon’ carries connotation (suggestion) of a criminal abrupt punishment.
In this sense the poem concludes with a despairing point of view ; in interior life -psychological, spiritual erotic- is characterised by feelings of oppression and despair, punctuated by periods of respite. The final line states that what has gone before is not ‘brayed of the tongue’ it may suggest that the subject is not spoken of in public and to do so would be to speak in a way that might be considered rough and uncouth.