The Single Hound; Poems of a Lifetime by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). Introduction by Martha Dickinson Bianchi (1866-1943). Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1914.
BY MARTHA DICKINSON BIANCHI.
All rights reserved
Published, September, 1914
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
THE romantic friendship of my Aunt Emily Dickinson and her "Sister Sue" extended from girlhood until death. The first poem, dated, was sent in 1848, and probably the last word Aunt Emily ever wrote was her reply to a message from my Mother, "My answer is an unmitigated Yes, Sue." During the last year of my Mother's life she read and re-read these poems, and innumerable letters, with increasing indecision as to the final disposition of her treasury. It eventually devolved upon me to choose between burning them or giving them to the lovers of my Aunt's peculiar genius.
My hesitation was finally influenced by a note written in their early twenties, which I quote.
DEAR SUE:[Page vi]
I like your praise because I know it knows. If I could make you and Austin proud some day a long way off, 'twould give me taller feet.
This is my inspiration for a volume, offered as a memorial to the love of these "Dear, dead Women."
Also, it seemed but fitting to reveal a phase of Aunt Emily known only to us who dwelt with her behind the hedge; the fascinating, wilful woman, lightning and fragrance in one.
I am told she is taught in colleges as a rare strange being; a weird recluse, eating her heart out in morbid and unhappy longing, or a victim of unsatisfied passion; I have heard her called "an epigrammatic Walt Whitman" by a noted lecturer, and only recently a distinguished foreign critic pronounced her "the greatest mystic America has produced–second only to Ralph Waldo Emerson."
But to her niece and nephews she was of fairy lineage, akin to the frost on the nursery pane in Winter or the humming bird of Midsummer; the realization of our vivid fancy, the confederate in every contraband desire, the very Spirit of the "Never, Never Land."
She adored us, her three Child-Lovers, talked to us as if we were grown up and our opinions [Page vii] of importance, our secrets portentous, though always keeping herself our playmate with such art that she remains in my memory as a little girl herself. Once, when my brother Ned, as a child, stood looking up at the evening star, he said wistfully, "I want to go up there, Aunt Emily." "All right," she cried, "Go get your horse and buggy and we'll go tonight!" Often quoting afterward his grave rebuke of her levity–"Aunt Emily,–you can't go up there in a horse and buggy!"
When we were happy she added her crumb, when we were ill all she had was ours, were we grieved, her indignation was hot against whoever or whatever had wounded us. I thought of her as the avenging angel then, her eyes smouldered so gloriously at our wrongs. One other charm was unique to her; her way of flitting, like a shadow upon the hillside, a motion known to no other mortal. In the midst of one of our Eden-hours, she would fly at the sound of an intruder and was not–only the tick of the old clock left for our companioning. I was usually left with her while both families went to church [Page viii] on Sabbath mornings and well remember being escorted by her down to the cool hoarding cellar, past the wine closet to a mysterious cupboard of her own, where she dealt me such lawless cake and other goodies, that even a child of four knew it for excess, sure to be followed by disaster later in the day. There was an unreal abandon about it all such as thrills the prodigality of dreaming.
As we grew older her wit was our unconscious standard of others, her pitiless directness of thought our revelation, while her sweetness was like nothing but that of her own favorite jasmine flowers. Indeed she resembled the Cape Jasmine more than any mortal being. They two were the whitest Sisters, or flowers, Nature ever bore.
Once let us get to her,–past what Mr. Henry James calls "an archaic Irish servant," past our other faithful but prejudiced Aunt Lavinia, who gave us a plain cookey and advised us to "run home,"–once within the forbidden precincts of the "front part" of the old mansion, we had found our South-West passage and were [Page ix] transported, obstinate, oblivious. To water her plants with her tiny watering pot, to help her ice a loaf of plum cake for her Father's supper, to watch her check off the rich dark caramels she unfailingly kept on hand for us, to share her wickedness in skirmishing to avoid outsiders, or to connive in her intrigue to outwit the cat of perpetual unpopularity in her esteem,–what other joys could drag us from these?
She put more excitement into the event of a dead fly than her neighbors got from a journey by stage-coach to Boston. If art is "exaggeration apropos," as Mérimée claims, she was an incomparable artist at life.
There was nothing forbidden us by her, in spite of which license we were as shy of troubling her, as gentle in our play with her, as if she had been Hans Andersen's little Snow Maiden and might melt before our eyes if misunderstood.
Fascination was her element. It was my brother Ned, borne home against his will, screaming "I want a rich! I will see my Aunt [Page x] Emily! I will have a rich!" who provided that dear Villain with a synonym for her own terms with Life. "A rich" was the desire of her heart, "a rich" was her instinctive claim, and she would not compromise.
The poems here included were written on any chance slip of paper, sometimes the old plaid Quadrille, sometimes a gilt-edged sheet with a Paris mark, often a random scrap of commercial note from her Father's law office. Each of these is folded over, addressed merely "Sue," and sent by the first available hand. For though they lived side by side with only a wide green lawn between, days and even weeks slipped by sometimes without their actual meeting. My Mother was blessedly busy in her home and Aunt Emily's light across the snow in the Winter gloaming, or burning late when she remained up all night, to protect her plants from chill, was often a mute greeting between them supplemented only by their written messages. There must have been a lure for the almost cloistered soul in the warmth of her only brother Austin's youthful home, and the radiant atmosphere of [Page xi] my Mother with her three children growing up about her. "Only Woman in the World," "Avalanche of Sun," "Sister of Ophir," she calls her. In these earlier days Aunt Emily often came over, most frequently in the evening, and always when Mr. Bowles, Mrs. Anthon of London, or some such cherished guest, was here. She played brilliantly upon the piano, and travestied the descriptive pieces popular at that period with as much skill as wit. One improvisation which she called the Devil was, by tradition, unparalleled. She had no idea of the passing of time when at the height of these frolics and not until my revered Grandfather appeared with his lantern, would the revel break off. Him she adored, feared, made fun of, and obeyed. "If Father is asleep on the sofa the house is full, though it were empty otherwise!" was one of her familiar exclamations. It could never be said of her, as she said of a prosaic friend, "He has the facts but not the phosphorescence of learning!" One evening when Dr. and Mrs. Holland had arrived unexpectedly to pass the night, having driven over from North- [Page xii] hampton in the Autumn dusk, my Grandmother, anxious for their every comfort, offered one solicitous suggestion after another, until Aunt Emily, always exasperated by repetition, cried–"O Mrs. Holland, don't you want to hear me say the Lord's prayer? Should n't you like me to repeat the Declaration of Independence? Shan't I recite the Ten Commandments?"
It was in this mood that she once put four superfluous kittens on the fire-shovel and softly dropped them into the first convenient jar the cellar offered, her family being in church–her chosen time for iniquity. This especial jar happened to be full of pickle brine. The sequel was very awful; occurring when the austere Judge Otis P. Lord of Salem was visiting my Grandfather, and as in all such emergencies of detection she fled to her own room and turned the key; holding reproach at bay until she chose to come out and ignore it. In her innocent love of mystery and intrigue Aunt Emily reminds one of Stevenson. She would have played at "lantern bearers" with him, and given the [Page xiii] stealthy countersign under her breath, as no other living urchin!
She was "eternally preoccupied with death" as any of Pater's giant Florentines, but though the supernatural had the supreme hold on her imagination and conjecture, every lesser mystery was a panic and an ecstasy. If she could contrive to outwit domestic vigilance and smuggle a box of fresh-laid eggs to my Mother, on the sly, it savored to her of piracy and brigandage. She was averse to surveillance of every description and took pains to elude it in these little traffics of her heart as in the enigmas of her Being. "Give me liberty or give me death–but if you can, give me liberty!" was her frequent cry. She had a keen scent for the meanings hid beneath the goodly outside of diplomacy and watched for developments in home and foreign policies with surprising acumen. The Winter she was at Willard's, during her Father's Congressional career, she is said to have astonished his political friends by her insight and created quite a sensation by her wit, though the only story I recall now was [Page xiv] of her saying to a prim old Chief Justice of the Supremest sort, when the plum pudding on fire was offered–"Oh Sir, may one eat of hell fire with impunity, here?"
Physically timid at the least approach to a crisis in the day's event, her mind dared earth and heaven. That apocrypha and apocalypse met in her, explains her tendency so often mistaken for blasphemy by the superficial analyst.
The advance and retreat of her thought, her transition from arch to demure, from elfin to angelic, from soaring to drowning, her inescapable sense of tragedy, her inimitable perception of comedy, her breathless reverence and unabashed invasion upon the intimate affairs of Deity and hearsay of the Bible, made her a comrade to mettle inspiration and dazzle rivalry. Unlike the dullard, brilliancy was no effort for her. She revelled in the wings of her mind,–I had almost said the fins too,–so universal was her identification with every form of life and element of being. She usually liked men better than women because they were more stimulating. I can see her yet, stand- [Page xv] ing in the spacious upper hall a Summer afternoon, finger on lip, and hear her say, as the feminine callers took their departure–"Listen! Hear them kiss, the traitors!" To most women she was a provoking puzzle. To her, in turn, most women were a form of triviality to be escaped when feasible.
But stupidity had no sex with her and I equally well remember her spying down upon a stranger sent to call upon her by a mutual friend, and dismissing him unreceived after one glance from her window, remarking– "His face is as handsome and as meaningless as the full moon." At another time she called me to peep at a new Professor recently come to the college, saying–"Look dear, he is pretty as a cloth Pink!" her mouth curling in derision as she uttered it and one hand motioning as if to throw the flower away. She had a dramatic way of throwing up her hands at the climax of a story or to punctuate one of her own flashes. It was entirely spontaneous, her spirit seemed merely playing through her body as the Aurora borealis through darkness. And since [Page xvi] there is no portrait of Aunt Emily, may I be pardoned if I try to give an idea of her external likeness? It has been often told that she wore white exclusively. She has said herself, in one of her letters to an inquisitive friend who had never seen her and importuned for a hint of her outward self,–that her eyes were the color of the sherry left in the glass by him to whom she wrote. Her hair was of that same warm bronze-chestnut hue that Titian immortalized, and she wore it parted on her brow and low in her neck, but always half covered by a velvet snood of the same tint; such as the Venetian painters loved to add as a final grace to the portraits of their beloved and beautiful women. Her cheek was like the petal of the jasmine, a velvety white never touched by a hint of color. Her red lips parted over very regular little teeth like the squirrels' and it was the rather long upper lip that gave to the mouth its asceticism, and betrayed the monastic tendency in her, of which she was probably quite unaware.
If this combines nature and art and mys- [Page xvii] ticism in one, too bewilderingly to reproduce any definite impression, it is the fault of that face,–as animate in my memory as it is still in my dreams.
In spite of an innate austerity of the senses, my Aunt had lovers, like Browning's roses–"all the way"–to the end; men of varied profession and attainment who wrote to her and came to see her, and whose letters she burned with a chivalry not all of them requited in kind. "Sister Sue" was her confidante and ally, from whose lips we heard many a hot or quaint tale when time had made them no perfidy. One of these in which we most delighted was of how Aunt Emily as a young lady, having been decorously driven to a funeral in Hadley, in the family barouche lined with cream-colored broadcloth, ran from the grave with a dashing cousin from Worcester, via a skittish black horse and worldly buggy, capping her infamy by returning through Sunderland and being in her room with the door locked when the family got home.
Nothing would be more delicious to me than [Page xviii] to repeat by name the list of those whom she bewitched. It included college boys, tutors, law students, the brothers of her girl friends,–several times their affianced bridegrooms even; and then the maturer friendships,–literary, Platonic, Plutonic; passages varying in intensity, and at least one passionate attachment whose tragedy was due to the integrity of the Lovers, who scrupled to take their bliss at another's cost.
She was not daily-bread. She was star-dust. Her solitude made her and was part of her. Taken from her distant sky she must have become a creature as different as fallen meteor from pulsing star. One may ask of the Sphinx, if life would not have been dearer to her, lived as other women lived it? To have been, in essence, more as other women were? Or if, in so doing and so being, she would have missed that inordinate compulsion, that inquisitive comprehension that made her Emily Dickinson? It is to ask again the old riddle of genius against every-day happiness. Had life or love been able to dissuade her from that "eter- [Page xix] nal preoccupation with death" which thralled her–if she could have chosen–you urge, still unconvinced? But I feel that she could and did, and that nothing could have compensated her for the forfeit of that "single hound," her "own Identity."
MARTHA DICKINSON BIANCHI.
|One Sister have I in our house||1|
|I.||Adventure most unto itself||3|
|II.||The Soul that hath a Guest||4|
|III.||Except the smaller size, no Lives are round||5|
|IV.||Fame is a fickle food||6|
|V.||The right to perish might be thought||7|
|VI.||Peril as a possession||8|
|VII.||When Etna basks and purrs||9|
|VIII.||Reverse cannot befall that fine Prosperity||10|
|IX.||To be alive is power||11|
|X.||Witchcraft has not a pedigree||12|
|XI.||Exhilaration is the Breeze||13|
|XII.||No romance sold unto||14|
|XIII.||If what we could were what we would||15|
|XIV.||Perception of an Object costs||16|
|XV.||No other can reduce||17|
|XVI.||The blunder is to estimate||18|
|XVII.||My Wheel is in the dark||19|
|XVIII.||There is another Loneliness||20|
|XIX.||So gay a flower bereaved the mind||21|
|XX.||Glory is that bright tragic thing||22|
|XXI.||The missing All prevented me||23|
|XXII.||His mind, of man a secret makes||24|
|XXIII.||The suburbs of a secret||25|
|XXIV.||The difference between despair||26|
|XXV.||There is a solitude of space||27|
|XXVI.||The props assist the house||28|
|XXVII.||The gleam of an heroic act||29|
|XXVIII.||Of Death the sharpest function||30|
|XXIX.||Down Time's quaint stream||31|
|XXX.||I bet with every Wind that blew||32|
|XXXI.||The Future never spoke||33|
|XXXII.||Two lengths has every day||34|
|XXXIII.||The Soul's superior instants||35|
|XXXIV.||Nature is what we see||36|
|XXXV.||Ah, Teneriffe! Retreating Mountain!||37|
|XXXVI.||She died at play||38|
|XXXVII.||"Morning" means "Milking" to the Farmer||39|
|XXXVIII.||A little madness in the Spring||40|
|XXXIX.||I can't tell you, but you feel it||41|
|XL.||Some Days retired from the rest||43|
|XLI.||Like Men and Women shadows walk||44|
|XLII.||The butterfly obtains||45|
|XLIII.||Beauty crowds me till I die||46|
|XLIV.||We spy the Forests and the Hills||47|
|XLV.||I never told the buried gold||48|
|XLVI.||The largest fire ever known||50|
|XLVII.||Bloom upon the Mountain, stated||51|
|XLVIII.||March is the month of expectation||53|
|XLIX.||The Duties of the Wind are few||54|
|L.||The Winds drew off like hungry dogs||55|
|LI.||I think that the root of the Wind is Water||56|
|LII.||So, from the mould||57|
|LIII.||The long sigh of the Frog||58|
|LIV.||A cap of lead across the sky||59|
|LV.||I send two Sunsets||60|
|LVI.||Of this is Day composed||61|
|LVII.||The Hills erect their purple heads||62|
|LVIII.||Lightly stepped a yellow star||63|
|LIX.||The Moon upon her fluent route||64|
|LX.||Like some old fashioned miracle||65|
|LXI.||Glowing is her Bonnet||66|
|LXII.||Forever cherished be the tree||67|
|LXIII.||The Ones that disappeared are back||68|
|LXIV.||Those final Creatures,–who they are||69|
|LXV.||Summer begins to have the look||70|
|LXVI.||A prompt, executive Bird is the Jay||71|
|LXVII.||Like brooms of steel||72|
|LXVIII.||These are the days that Reindeer love||73|
|LXIX.||Follow wise Orion||74|
|LXX.||In Winter, in my room||75|
|LXXI.||Not any sunny tone||77|
|LXXII.||For Death,–or rather||78|
|LXXIII.||Dropped into the Ether Acre!||79|
|LXXIV.||This quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies||80|
|LXXV.||'Twas comfort in her dying room||81|
|LXXVI.||Too cold is this||82|
|LXXVII.||I watched her face to see which way||83|
|LXXVIII.||Today or this noon||84|
|LXXIX.||I see thee better in the dark||85|
|LXXX.||Low at my problem bending||86|
|LXXXI.||If pain for peace prepares||87|
|LXXXII.||I fit for them||88|
|LXXXIII.||Not one by Heaven defrauded stay||89|
|LXXXIV.||The feet of people walking home||90|
|LXXXV.||We should not mind so small a flower||92|
|LXXXVI.||To the staunch Dust we safe commit thee||93|
|LXXXVII.||Her "Last Poems"||94|
|LXXXVIII.||Immured in Heaven! What a Cell!||95|
|LXXXIX.||I'm thinking of that other morn||96|
|XC.||The overtakelessness of those||97|
|XCI.||The Look of Thee, what is it like||98|
|XCII.||The Devil, had he fidelity||99|
|XCIII.||Papa above! Regard a Mouse||100|
|XCIV.||Not when we know||101|
|XCV.||Elijah's wagon knew no thill||102|
|XCVI.||"Remember me" implored the Thief||103|
|XCVII.||To this apartment deep||104|
|XCVIII.||"Sown in dishonor?"||105|
|XCIX.||Who is it seeks my pillow nights?||106|
|C.||His Cheek is his Biographer||107|
|CI.||"Heavenly Father," take to thee||108|
|CII.||The sweets of Pillage can be known||109|
|CIII.||A little over Jordan||110|
|CIV.||Dust is the only secret||111|
|CV.||Ambition cannot find him||112|
|CVI.||Eden is that old fashioned House||113|
|CVII.||Candor, my tepid Friend||114|
|CVIII.||Speech is a symptom of affection||115|
|CIX.||Who were "the Father and the Son"||116|
|CX.||That Love is all there is||118|
|CXI.||The luxury to apprehend||119|
|CXII.||The Sea said "Come" to the Brook||120|
|CXIII.||All I may, if small||121|
|CXIV.||Love reckons by itself alone||122|
|CXV.||The inundation of the Spring||123|
|CXVI.||No Autumn's intercepting chill||124|
|CXVII.||Volcanoes be in Sicily||125|
|CXVIII.||Distance is not the realm of Fox||126|
|CXIX.||The treason of an accent||127|
|CXX.||How destitute is he||128|
|CXXI.||Crisis is sweet and, set the Heart||129|
|CXXII.||To tell the beauty would decrease||130|
|CXXIII.||To love thee, year by year||131|
|CXXIV.||I showed her heights she never saw||132|
|CXXV.||On my volcano grows the grass||133|
|CXXVI.||If I could tell how glad I was||134|
|CXXVII.||Her Grace is all she has||135|
|CXXVIII.||No matter where the Saints abide||136|
|CXXIX.||To see her is a picture||137|
|CXXX.||So set its sun in thee||138|
|CXXXI.||Had this one day not been||139|
|CXXXII.||That she forgot me was the least||140|
|CXXXIII.||The incidents of Love||141|
|CXXXIV.||Just so, Jesus raps–He does not weary||142|
|CXXXV.||Safe Despair it is that raves||143|
|CXXXVI.||The Face we choose to miss||144|
|CXXXVII.||Of so divine a loss||145|
|CXXXVIII.||The healed Heart shows its shallow scar||146|
|CXXXIX.||To pile like Thunder to its close||147|
|CXL.||The Stars are old, that stood for me||148|
|CXLI.||All circumstances are the frame||149|
|CXLII.||I did not reach thee||150|
One came the way that I came,
And wore my last year's gown,
The other, as a bird her nest,
Builded our hearts among.
She did not sing as we did,
It was a different tune,
Herself to her a music–
As Bumble-bee of June.
Today is far from childhood,
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter,
Which shortened all the miles.
And still her hum the years among
Deceives the Butterfly,
Still in her eye the Violets lie
Mouldered this many May.
I spilt the dew but took the morn,
I chose this single Star
From out the wide night's numbers,
To be alive and Will–
'Tis able as a God!
The Further of ourselves be what–
Such being Finitude?
My foot is on the tide–
An unfrequented road,
Yet have all roads
A "clearing" at the end.
Some have resigned the Loom,
Some in the busy tomb
Find quaint employ,
Some with new, stately feet
Pass royal through the gate,
Flinging the problem back at you and I.
But nature sometimes, sometimes thought,
And whoso it befall
Is richer than could be divulged
By mortal numeral.
The mind is smooth,–no motion–
Contented as the eye
Upon the forehead of a Bust,
That knows it cannot see.
Or she, Herself, ascended
To too remote a height,
For lower recognition
Than Her Omnipotent.
This mortal abolition
Is seldom, but as fair
To autocratic air.
To favorites, a few,
Of the Colossal substance
Nature is what we hear,
The Bobolink, the Sea–
Thunder, the Cricket–
Nay,–Nature is Harmony.
Nature is what we know
But have no art to say,
So impotent our wisdom is
To Her simplicity.
Still, clad in your mail of ices,
Thigh of granite and thew of steel–
Heedless, alike, of pomp or parting,
I'm kneeling still.
Sweeter than a vanished Frolic
From a vanished Green!
Swifter than the hoofs of Horsemen
Round a ledge of Dream!
Modest, let us walk among it,
With our "faces veiled,"
As they say polite Archangels
Do, in meeting God.
Not for me to prate about it,
Not for you to say
To some fashionable Lady–
"Charming April Day!"
Rather Heaven's "Peter Parley,"
By which, Children–slow–
To sublimer recitations
Are prepared to go!
Could Commentators on the sign
Of Nature's Caravan
Obtain "admission," as a child,
Some Wednesday afternoon?
He stood as near, as stood you here,
A pace had been between–
Did but a snake bisect the brake,
My life had forfeit been.
That was a wondrous booty,
I hope 'twas honest gained–
Those were the finest ingots
That ever kissed the spade.
Whether to keep the secret–
Whether to reveal–
Whether, while I ponder
Kidd may sudden sail–
Could a Shrewd advise me
We might e'en divide–
Should a Shrewd betray me–
Seed, had I, my purple sowing
Should endow the Day,
Not a tropic of the twilight
Show itself away.
Who for tilling, to the Mountain
Come, and disappear–
Whose be Her renown, or fading,
Witness, is not here.
While I state–the solemn petals
Far as North and East,
Far as South and West expanding,
Culminate in rest.
And the Mountain to the Evening
Fit His countenance,
Indicating by no muscle
A chill came up as from a shaft,
Our noon became a well,
A Thunder storm combines the charms
Of Winter and of Hell.
His own is ampler–
But, as I was saying to a friend,
Mine is the more convenient
To carry in the hand.
[Sent with brilliant flowers.]
As infinite tradition
As Cinderella's bays,
Or little John of Lincoln Green,
Or Bluebeard's galleries.
Her Bees have a fictitious hum,
Her Blossoms, like a dream,
Elate–until we almost weep
So plausible they seem.
Her Memories like strains–review–
When Orchestra is dumb,
The Violin in baize replaced
And Ear and Heaven numb.
Better, as the Daisy
From the Summer hill,
Save by tearful Rill,
Save by loving Sunrise
Looking for her face,
Save by feet unnumbered
Pausing at the place!
Autumn begins to be inferred
By millinery of the cloud,
Or deeper color in the shawl
That wraps the everlasting hill.
The eye begins its avarice,
A meditation chastens speech,
Some Dyer of a distant tree
Resumes his gaudy industry.
Conclusion is the course of all,
Almost to be perennial,
And then elude stability
Recalls to immortality.
A trifle afterward
A thing occurred,
I'd not believe it if I heard–
But state with creeping blood;
A snake, with mottles rare,
Surveyed my chamber floor,
In feature as the worm before,
But ringed with power.
The very string
With which I tied him, too,
When he was mean and new,
That string was there.
I shrank–"How fair you are!"
"Afraid," he hissed,
He fathomed me.
Then, to a rhythm slim
Secreted in his form,
As patterns swim,
That time I flew,
Both eyes his way,
Lest he pursue–
Nor ever ceased to run,
Till, in a distant town,
Towns on from mine–
I sat me down;
This was a dream.
I see thee better for the years
That hunch themselves between,
The miner's lamp sufficient be
To nullify the mine.
And in the grave I see thee best–
Its little panels be
A-glow, all ruddy with the light
I held so high for thee!
What need of day to those whose dark
Hath so surpassing sun,
It seem it be continually
At the meridian?
If Springs from Winter rise,
Can the Anemone's
Be reckoned up?
If night stands first, then noon,
To gird us for the sun,
When, from a thousand skies,
On our developed eyes
Pearls are the Diver's farthings
Extorted from the Sea,
Pinions the Seraph's wagon,
Pedestrians once, as we–
Night is the morning's canvas,
Death but our rapt attention
My figures fail to tell me
How far the village lies,
Whose Peasants are the angels,
Whose Cantons dot the skies,
My Classics veil their faces,
My Faith that dark adores,
Which from its solemn Abbeys
Such resurrection pours!
[Written after the death of Mrs. Browning in 1861.]
The soul her "not at Home"
Inscribes upon the flesh,
And takes her fair aerial gait
Beyond the hope of touch.
Thy fellows,–are they Realms or Themes?
Hast thou Delight or Fear
Or Longing,–and is that for us
Or values more severe?
Let change transfuse all other traits,
Enact all other blame,
But deign this least certificate–
That thou shalt be the same.
Snug in seraphic cupboards
To nibble all the day,
While unsuspecting cycles
Wheel pompously away.
That courtesy will fair remain,
When the delight is dust,
With which we cite this mightiest case
Of compensated Trust.
Of All, we are allowed to hope,
But Affidavit stands
That this was due, where some, we fear,
Are unexpected friends.
"Sown in corruption?"
By no means!
Apostle is askew;
Corinthians 1. 15, narrates
A circumstance or two!
With martial hand she strokes the hair
Upon my wincing head,
"All rogues shall have their part in"–
The Phosphorus of God.
Till, morning touching mountain,
And Jacob waxing strong,
The Angel begged permission
To breakfast and return.
Not so, quoth wily Jacob
And girt his loins anew,
"Until thou bless me, stranger!"
The which acceded to:
Light swung the silver fleeces
Peniel hills among,
And the astonished Wrestler
Found he had worsted God!
Bolder than a Brigand,
Swifter than a Fleet,
Builds like a bird too,
Christ robs the nest–
Robin after robin
Smuggled to rest!
Who are "the Father and the Son"–
Did we demand today,
"The Father and the Son" himself
Would doubtless specify,
But had they the felicity
When we desired to know,
We better Friends had been, perhaps,
Than time ensue to be.
We start, to learn that we believe
But once, entirely–
Belief, it does not fit so well
When altered frequently.
We blush, that Heaven if we achieve,
We shall have shunned, until ashamed
To own the Miracle.
My will endeavours for its word
And fails, but entertains
A rapture as of legacies–
Of introspective mines.
How red the fire reeks below,
How insecure the sod–
Did I disclose, would populate
With awe my solitude.
Lest Love should value less
What Loss would value more,
Had it the stricken privilege–
It cherishes before.
Faithful, was all that I could boast,
But Constancy became,
To her, by her innominate,
A something like a shame.
Garrisoned no Soul can be
In the front of Trouble,
Love is one, not aggregate,
Nor is Dying double.
The light His Action and the dark
The Leisure of His Will,
In Him Existence serve, or set
A force illegible.
Two deserts–but the year is cold
So that will help the sand–
One desert crossed, the second one
Will feel as cool as land.
Sahara is too little price
To pay for thy Right hand!
The sea comes last. Step merry, feet!
So short have we to go
To play together we are prone,
But we must labor now,
The last shall be the lightest load
That we have had to draw.
The Sun goes crooked–that is night–
Before he makes the bend
We must have passed the middle sea,
Almost we wish the end
Were further off–too great it seems
So near the Whole to stand.
We step like plush, we stand like snow–
The waters murmur now,
Three rivers and the hill are passed,
Two deserts and the sea!
Now Death usurps my premium
And gets the look at Thee.
The copytext for this on-line edition of Emily Dickinson's The single hound; poems of a lifetime. With an introduction by her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi. is the Boston: Little, Brown, 1914 first edition. A copy of this edition can be found in the rare book room of the Hunt Library, at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. Page breaks have been placed at the beginning of each page, indicated through the use of text as [Page xx].
This book has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the Celebration of Women Writers through the combined work of: Steven van Leeuwen and Mary Mark Ockerbloom.