Exultation is the going

Of an inland soul to sea,

Past the houses—past the headlands—

Into deep Eternity—

Bred as we, among the mountains,

Can the sailor understand

The divine intoxication

Of the first league out from land?

This is Emily Dickinson's poem. I somewhat understand the meaning of the bolded part but still don't know how come this phrase is possible grammatically? Can I see it as an adjective phrase?

  • Grammar shmammar. It is poetic license.
    – John Canon
    Jun 28, 2021 at 0:00
  • 1
    Emily Dickinson is renowned for her eccentric grammar, punctuation, and thought. Expecting her poems to match conventional standards of writing is like expecting a comedian to be 100% honest and factual.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 28, 2021 at 10:20

1 Answer 1


This is a subtle blending of two devices— one rhetorical and the other linguistic— to give a thorough poetic touch to the line.

The two devices being:


Inversion of the normal syntactic order of words; for example,

“Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear” (Alexander Pope).

[American Heritage Dictionary]


Zero Copula

In grammar, zero copula refers to the absence of an explicit auxiliary verb (usually a form of the verb be) in certain constructions where it is customarily found in standard English. Also called copula deletion or understood copula.


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