What does the verb pass out mean in this poem of Emily Dickinson? The second stanza of the poem is following,

Read then of faith

That shone above the fagot;

Clear strains of hymn

The river could not drown;

Brave names of men

And celestial women,

Passed out of record

Into renown!

I read commentaries and analyses of the poem, yet it is not clear to me what pass out could mean in this context?

  • 5
    It’s not pass out | of record, but rather pass | out of record. The verb just carries its basic meaning here, nothing mysterious about it. Jul 10, 2019 at 9:09

2 Answers 2


There is a contrast between passed out of record and into renown.

For "passed out of record", imagine a set of logbooks for keeping records. First, a person is born, then they become a parent, then a grandparent, then a great grandparent, and so on. All this is recorded. Eventually, it becomes too much of a hassle to keep updating the old records. There isn't enough space to keep every logbook, so the old ones get thrown out. At some point, the oldies aren't mentioned anywhere in the extant logbooks - they have passed out of record.

This contrasts poetically with "into renown", but that discussion would be pressing against the boundaries of EL&U.


In this context, I would say passed is being used in the sense of meaning 'transition'

From Merriam-Webster:

  1. to go from one quality, state, or form to another


So they transitioned from simply being part of a record, or part of history, into the renown or legendary status.

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