The poem refers to dead bodies in their coffins awaiting the Biblical Resurrection. Scholar Helen Vendler notes the irony in the second stanza: the sounds of nature cannot be heard or appreciated by the dead with their "stolid ears". The final line somewhat blasphemy leaves doubt if a resurrection will really occur.
Today, other than the published version which was edited by the newspaper, there are two known versions of the poem, each with significant word choice changes. After its publication, Susan Dickinson offered suggestions particularly to improve the second stanza of her sister-in-law's poem. The word "Sleepy" replaced "Lie" in the earlier version, possibly to allow a more obvious possibility of awaking in the Resurrection. Here is the new version with its vastly different second stanza, using Dickinson's original and unique style of capitalization and dashes:
Safe in their Alabaster Chambers—
Untouched by Morning —
And untouched by noon—
Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection,
Rafter of Satin, and Roof of Stone.
Grand go the Years,
In the Crescent above them —
Worlds scoop their Arcs—
And Firmaments — row —
Diadems — drop —
And Doges — surrender —
Soundless as Dots,
On a Disc of Snow.