A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part III: LXXI-XCI." by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
From: The Single Hound; Poems of a Lifetime. by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). With an introduction by her niece, Martha Gilbert Dickinson Bianchi (1866?-1943). Boston: Little, Brown, 1914. pp. 77-98.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 77] 


NOT any sunny tone
From any fervent zone
Finds entrance there.
Better a grave of Balm
Toward human nature's home,
And Robins near,
Than a stupendous Tomb
Proclaiming to the gloom
How dead we are.

[Page 78] 


FOR Death,–or rather
For the things 'twill buy,
These put away
Life's opportunity.
The things that Death will buy
Are Room,–Escape
From Circumstances,
And a Name.
How gifts of Life
With Death's gifts will compare,
We know not–
For the rates stop Here.

[Page 79] 


DROPPED into the
Ether Acre!
Wearing the sod gown–
Bonnet of Everlasting laces–
Brooch frozen on!
Horses of blonde–
And coach of silver,
Baggage a strapped Pearl!
Journey of Down
And whip of Diamond–
Riding to meet the Earl!

[Page 80] 


THIS quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies,
         And Lads and Girls;
Was laughter and ability and sighing,
         And frocks and curls.
This passive place a Summer's nimble mansion,
         Where Bloom and Bees
Fulfilled their Oriental Circuit,
         Then ceased like these.

[Page 81] 


'TWAS comfort in her dying room
To hear the living clock,
A short relief to have the wind
Walk boldly up and knock,
Diversion from the dying theme
To hear the children play,
But wrong, the mere
That these could live,–
And This of ours must die!

[Page 82] 


TOO cold is this
To warm with sun,
Too stiff to bended be,
To joint this agate were a feat
Outstaring masonry.
How went the agile kernel out–
Contusion of the husk,
Nor rip, nor wrinkle indicate,–
But just an Asterisk.

[Page 83] 


I WATCHED her face to see which way
She took the awful news,
Whether she died before she heard–
Or in protracted bruise
Remained a few short years with us,
Each heavier than the last–
A further afternoon to fail,
As Flower at fall of Frost.

[Page 84] 


TODAY or this noon
She dwelt so close,
I almost touched her;
Tonight she lies
Past neighborhood–
And bough and steeple–
Now past surmise.

[Page 85] 


I SEE thee better in the dark,
I do not need a light.
The love of thee a prism be
Excelling violet.

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?

[Page 86] 


LOW at my problem bending,
Another problem comes,
Larger than mine, serener,
Involving statelier sums;
I check my busy pencil,
My ciphers slip away,
Wherefore, my baffled fingers,
Time Eternity?

[Page 87] 


IF pain for peace prepares,
Lo the "Augustan" years
Our feet await!

If Springs from Winter rise,
Can the Anemone's
Be reckoned up?

If night stands first, then noon,
To gird us for the sun,
What gaze–

When, from a thousand skies,
On our developed eyes
Noons blaze!

[Page 88] 


I FIT for them,
I seek the dark till I am thorough fit.
The labor is a solemn one,
With this sufficient sweet–
That abstinence as mine produce
A purer good for them,
If I succeed,–
If not, I had
The transport of the Aim.

[Page 89] 


NOT one by Heaven defrauded stay,
Although He seem to steal,
He restitutes in some sweet way.
Secreted in His will.

[Page 90] 


THE feet of people walking home
In gayer sandals go,
The Crocus, till she rises,
The Vassal of the Snow–
The lips at Hallelujah!
Long years of practice bore,
Till bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.

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,
Larceny, legacy,
Death but our rapt attention
To immortality.

[Page 91] 

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!

[Page 92] 


WE should not mind so small a flower,
Except it quiet bring
Our little garden that we lost
Back to the lawn again.
So spicy her Carnations red,
So drunken reel her Bees,
So silver steal a hundred Flutes
From out a hundred trees,
That whoso sees this little flower,
By faith may clear behold
The Bobolinks around the throne,
And Dandelions gold.

[Page 93] 


TO the staunch Dust we safe commit thee;
Tongue if it hath, inviolate to thee–
Silence denote and Sanctity enforce thee,
Passenger of Infinity!

[Page 94] 


HER "Last Poems"–
Poets ended,
Silver perished with her tongue,
Not on record bubbled other
Flute, or Woman, so divine;
Not unto its Summer morning
Robin uttered half the tune–
Gushed too free for the adoring,
From the Anglo-Florentine.
Late the praise–
'Tis dull conferring
On a Head too high to crown,
Diadem or Ducal showing,
Be its Grave sufficient sign.
Yet if we, no Poet's kinsman,
Suffocate with easy woe,
What and if ourself a Bridegroom,
Put Her down, in Italy?

[Written after the death of Mrs. Browning in 1861.]

[Page 95] 


IMMURED in Heaven! What a Cell!
Let every bondage be,
Thou Sweetest of the Universe,
Like that which ravished thee!

[Page 96] 


I'M thinking of that other morn,
When Cerements let go,
And Creatures clad in Victory
Go up in two by two!

[Page 97] 


THE overtakelessness of those
Who have accomplished Death,
Majestic is to me beyond
The majesties of Earth.

The soul her "not at Home"
Inscribes upon the flesh,
And takes her fair aerial gait
Beyond the hope of touch.

[Page 98] 


THE Look of Thee, what is it like?
Hast thou a hand or foot,
Or mansion of Identity,
And what is thy Pursuit?

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.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Steven van Leeuwen.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom