Poems, by Emily Dickinson

III. Nature.


New feet within my garden go,

New fingers stir the sod;

A troubadour upon the elm

Betrays the solitude.

New children play upon the green,

New weary sleep below;

And still the pensive spring returns,

And still the punctual snow!



Pink, small, and punctual,

Aromatic, low,

Covert in April,

Candid in May,

Dear to the moss,

Known by the knoll,

Next to the robin

In every human soul.

Bold little beauty,

Bedecked with thee,

Nature forswears




The murmur of a bee

A witchcraft yieldeth me.

If any ask me why,

’T were easier to die

Than tell.

The red upon the hill

Taketh away my will;

If anybody sneer,

Take care, for God is here,

That’s all.

The breaking of the day

Addeth to my degree;

If any ask me how,

Artist, who drew me so,

Must tell!


Perhaps you’d like to buy a flower?

But I could never sell.

If you would like to borrow

Until the daffodil

Unties her yellow bonnet

Beneath the village door,

Until the bees, from clover rows

Their hock and sherry draw,

Why, I will lend until just then,

But not an hour more!


The pedigree of honey

Does not concern the bee;

A clover, any time, to him

Is aristocracy.


A Service of Song.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church;

I keep it staying at home,

With a bobolink for a chorister,

And an orchard for a dome.

Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;

I just wear my wings,

And instead of tolling the bell for church,

Our little sexton sings.

God preaches, — a noted clergyman, —

And the sermon is never long;

So instead of getting to heaven at last,

I’m going all along!


The bee is not afraid of me,

I know the butterfly;

The pretty people in the woods

Receive me cordially.

The brooks laugh louder when I come,

The breezes madder play.

Wherefore, mine eyes, thy silver mists?

Wherefore, O summer’s day?


Summer’s Armies.

Some rainbow coming from the fair!

Some vision of the world Cashmere

I confidently see!

Or else a peacock’s purple train,

Feather by feather, on the plain

Fritters itself away!

The dreamy butterflies bestir,

Lethargic pools resume the whir

Of last year’s sundered tune.

From some old fortress on the sun

Baronial bees march, one by one,

In murmuring platoon!

The robins stand as thick today

As flakes of snow stood yesterday,

On fence and roof and twig.

The orchis binds her feather on

For her old lover, Don the Sun,

Revisiting the bog!

Without commander, countless, still,

The regiment of wood and hill

In bright detachment stand.

Behold! Whose multitudes are these?

The children of whose turbaned seas,

Or what Circassian land?


The Grass.

The grass so little has to do, —

A sphere of simple green,

With only butterflies to brood,

And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes

The breezes fetch along,

And hold the sunshine in its lap

And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,

And make itself so fine, —

A duchess were too common

For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass

In odors so divine,

As lowly spices gone to sleep,

Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,

And dream the days away, —

The grass so little has to do,

I wish I were the hay!


A little road not made of man,

Enabled of the eye,

Accessible to thill of bee,

Or cart of butterfly.

If town it have, beyond itself,

’T is that I cannot say;

I only sigh, — no vehicle

Bears me along that way.


Summer Shower.

A drop fell on the apple tree,

Another on the roof;

A half a dozen kissed the eaves,

And made the gables laugh.

A few went out to help the brook,

That went to help the sea.

Myself conjectured, Were they pearls,

What necklaces could be!

The dust replaced in hoisted roads,

The birds jocoser sung;

The sunshine threw his hat away,

The orchards spangles hung.

The breezes brought dejected lutes,

And bathed them in the glee;

The East put out a single flag,

And signed the fete away.


Psalm of the Day.

A something in a summer’s day,

As slow her flambeaux burn away,

Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer’s noon, —

An azure depth, a wordless tune,

Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer’s night

A something so transporting bright,

I clap my hands to see;

Then veil my too inspecting face,

Lest such a subtle, shimmering grace

Flutter too far for me.

The wizard-fingers never rest,

The purple brook within the breast

Still chafes its narrow bed;

Still rears the East her amber flag,

Guides still the sun along the crag

His caravan of red,

Like flowers that heard the tale of dews,

But never deemed the dripping prize

Awaited their low brows;

Or bees, that thought the summer’s name

Some rumor of delirium

No summer could for them;

Or Arctic creature, dimly stirred

By tropic hint, — some travelled bird

Imported to the wood;

Or wind’s bright signal to the ear,

Making that homely and severe,

Contented, known, before

The heaven unexpected came,

To lives that thought their worshipping

A too presumptuous psalm.


The Sea of Sunset.

This is the land the sunset washes,

These are the banks of the Yellow Sea;

Where it rose, or whither it rushes,

These are the western mystery!

Night after night her purple traffic

Strews the landing with opal bales;

Merchantmen poise upon horizons,

Dip, and vanish with fairy sails.


Purple Clover.

There is a flower that bees prefer,

And butterflies desire;

To gain the purple democrat

The humming-birds aspire.

And whatsoever insect pass,

A honey bears away

Proportioned to his several dearth

And her capacity.

Her face is rounder than the moon,

And ruddier than the gown

Of orchis in the pasture,

Or rhododendron worn.

She doth not wait for June;

Before the world is green

Her sturdy little countenance

Against the wind is seen,

Contending with the grass,

Near kinsman to herself,

For privilege of sod and sun,

Sweet litigants for life.

And when the hills are full,

And newer fashions blow,

Doth not retract a single spice

For pang of jealousy.

Her public is the noon,

Her providence the sun,

Her progress by the bee proclaimed

In sovereign, swerveless tune.

The bravest of the host,

Surrendering the last,

Nor even of defeat aware

When cancelled by the frost.


The Bee.

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush

I hear the level bee:

A jar across the flowers goes,

Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault

Their chivalry consumes,

While he, victorious, tilts away

To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,

His helmet is of gold;

His breast, a single onyx

With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,

His idleness a tune;

Oh, for a bee’s experience

Of clovers and of noon!


Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn

Indicative that suns go down;

The notice to the startled grass

That darkness is about to pass.


As children bid the guest good-night,

And then reluctant turn,

My flowers raise their pretty lips,

Then put their nightgowns on.

As children caper when they wake,

Merry that it is morn,

My flowers from a hundred cribs

Will peep, and prance again.


Angels in the early morning

May be seen the dews among,

Stooping, plucking, smiling, flying:

Do the buds to them belong?

Angels when the sun is hottest

May be seen the sands among,

Stooping, plucking, sighing, flying;

Parched the flowers they bear along.


So bashful when I spied her,

So pretty, so ashamed!

So hidden in her leaflets,

Lest anybody find;

So breathless till I passed her,

So helpless when I turned

And bore her, struggling, blushing,

Her simple haunts beyond!

For whom I robbed the dingle,

For whom betrayed the dell,

Many will doubtless ask me,

But I shall never tell!


Two Worlds.

It makes no difference abroad,

The seasons fit the same,

The mornings blossom into noons,

And split their pods of flame.

Wild-flowers kindle in the woods,

The brooks brag all the day;

No blackbird bates his jargoning

For passing Calvary.

Auto-da-fe and judgment

Are nothing to the bee;

His separation from his rose

To him seems misery.


The Mountain.

The mountain sat upon the plain

In his eternal chair,

His observation omnifold,

His inquest everywhere.

The seasons prayed around his knees,

Like children round a sire:

Grandfather of the days is he,

Of dawn the ancestor.


A Day.

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —

A ribbon at a time.

The steeples swam in amethyst,

The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,

The bobolinks begun.

Then I said softly to myself,

“That must have been the sun!”

But how he set, I know not.

There seemed a purple stile

Which little yellow boys and girls

Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,

A dominie in gray

Put gently up the evening bars,

And led the flock away.


The butterfly’s assumption-gown,

In chrysoprase apartments hung,

  This afternoon put on.

How condescending to descend,

And be of buttercups the friend

  In a New England town!


The Wind.

Of all the sounds despatched abroad,

There’s not a charge to me

Like that old measure in the boughs,

That phraseless melody

The wind does, working like a hand

Whose fingers brush the sky,

Then quiver down, with tufts of tune

Permitted gods and me.

When winds go round and round in bands,

And thrum upon the door,

And birds take places overhead,

To bear them orchestra,

I crave him grace, of summer boughs,

If such an outcast be,

He never heard that fleshless chant

Rise solemn in the tree,

As if some caravan of sound

On deserts, in the sky,

Had broken rank,

Then knit, and passed

In seamless company.


Death and Life.

Apparently with no surprise

To any happy flower,

The frost beheads it at its play

In accidental power.

The blond assassin passes on,

The sun proceeds unmoved

To measure off another day

For an approving God.


’T WAS later when the summer went

Than when the cricket came,

And yet we knew that gentle clock

Meant nought but going home.

’T was sooner when the cricket went

Than when the winter came,

Yet that pathetic pendulum

Keeps esoteric time.


Indian Summer.

These are the days when birds come back,

A very few, a bird or two,

To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on

The old, old sophistries of June, —

A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,

Almost thy plausibility

Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,

And softly through the altered air

Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,

Oh, last communion in the haze,

Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,

Thy consecrated bread to break,

Taste thine immortal wine!



The morns are meeker than they were,

The nuts are getting brown;

The berry’s cheek is plumper,

The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,

The field a scarlet gown.

Lest I should be old-fashioned,

I’ll put a trinket on.



The sky is low, the clouds are mean,

A travelling flake of snow

Across a barn or through a rut

Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day

How some one treated him;

Nature, like us, is sometimes caught

Without her diadem.


The Hemlock.

I think the hemlock likes to stand

Upon a marge of snow;

It suits his own austerity,

And satisfies an awe

That men must slake in wilderness,

Or in the desert cloy, —

An instinct for the hoar, the bald,

Lapland’s necessity.

The hemlock’s nature thrives on cold;

The gnash of northern winds

Is sweetest nutriment to him,

His best Norwegian wines.

To satin races he is nought;

But children on the Don

Beneath his tabernacles play,

And Dnieper wrestlers run.


There’s a certain slant of light,

On winter afternoons,

That oppresses, like the weight

Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;

We can find no scar,

But internal difference

Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,

’T is the seal, despair, —

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,

Shadows hold their breath;

When it goes, ’t is like the distance

On the look of death.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53