Poems, Series Two, by Emily Dickinson

II. Love.



Of all the souls that stand create

I have elected one.

When sense from spirit files away,

And subterfuge is done;

When that which is and that which was

Apart, intrinsic, stand,

And this brief tragedy of flesh

Is shifted like a sand;

When figures show their royal front

And mists are carved away, —

Behold the atom I preferred

To all the lists of clay!


I have no life but this,

To lead it here;

Nor any death, but lest

Dispelled from there;

Nor tie to earths to come,

Nor action new,

Except through this extent,

The realm of you.


Your riches taught me poverty.

Myself a millionnaire

In little wealths, — as girls could boast, —

Till broad as Buenos Ayre,

You drifted your dominions

A different Peru;

And I esteemed all poverty,

For life’s estate with you.

Of mines I little know, myself,

But just the names of gems, —

The colors of the commonest;

And scarce of diadems

So much that, did I meet the queen,

Her glory I should know:

But this must be a different wealth,

To miss it beggars so.

I ’m sure ’t is India all day

To those who look on you

Without a stint, without a blame, —

Might I but be the Jew!

I ’m sure it is Golconda,

Beyond my power to deem, —

To have a smile for mine each day,

How better than a gem!

At least, it solaces to know

That there exists a gold,

Although I prove it just in time

Its distance to behold!

It ’s far, far treasure to surmise,

And estimate the pearl

That slipped my simple fingers through

While just a girl at school!


The Contract.

I gave myself to him,

And took himself for pay.

The solemn contract of a life

Was ratified this way.

The wealth might disappoint,

Myself a poorer prove

Than this great purchaser suspect,

The daily own of Love

Depreciate the vision;

But, till the merchant buy,

Still fable, in the isles of spice,

The subtle cargoes lie.

At least, ’t is mutual risk, —

Some found it mutual gain;

Sweet debt of Life, — each night to owe,

Insolvent, every noon.


The Letter.

“GOING to him! Happy letter! Tell him —

Tell him the page I didn’t write;

Tell him I only said the syntax,

And left the verb and the pronoun out.

Tell him just how the fingers hurried,

Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow;

And then you wished you had eyes in your pages,

So you could see what moved them so.

“Tell him it wasn’t a practised writer,

You guessed, from the way the sentence toiled;

You could hear the bodice tug, behind you,

As if it held but the might of a child;

You almost pitied it, you, it worked so.

Tell him — No, you may quibble there,

For it would split his heart to know it,

And then you and I were silenter.

“Tell him night finished before we finished,

And the old clock kept neighing ‘day!’

And you got sleepy and begged to be ended —

What could it hinder so, to say?

Tell him just how she sealed you, cautious,

But if he ask where you are hid

Until tomorrow, — happy letter!

Gesture, coquette, and shake your head!”


The way I read a letter ’s this:

’T is first I lock the door,

And push it with my fingers next,

For transport it be sure.

And then I go the furthest off

To counteract a knock;

Then draw my little letter forth

And softly pick its lock.

Then, glancing narrow at the wall,

And narrow at the floor,

For firm conviction of a mouse

Not exorcised before,

Peruse how infinite I am

To — no one that you know!

And sigh for lack of heaven, — but not

The heaven the creeds bestow.


Wild nights! Wild nights!

Were I with thee,

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile the winds

To a heart in port, —

Done with the compass,

Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!

Ah! the sea!

Might I but moor

To-night in thee!


At Home.

The night was wide, and furnished scant

With but a single star,

That often as a cloud it met

Blew out itself for fear.

The wind pursued the little bush,

And drove away the leaves

November left; then clambered up

And fretted in the eaves.

No squirrel went abroad;

A dog’s belated feet

Like intermittent plush were heard

Adown the empty street.

To feel if blinds be fast,

And closer to the fire

Her little rocking-chair to draw,

And shiver for the poor,

The housewife’s gentle task.

“How pleasanter,” said she

Unto the sofa opposite,

“The sleet than May — no thee!”



Did the harebell loose her girdle

To the lover bee,

Would the bee the harebell hallow

Much as formerly?

Did the paradise, persuaded,

Yield her moat of pearl,

Would the Eden be an Eden,

Or the earl an earl?


A charm invests a face

Imperfectly beheld, —

The lady dare not lift her veil

For fear it be dispelled.

But peers beyond her mesh,

And wishes, and denies, —

Lest interview annul a want

That image satisfies.


The Lovers.

The rose did caper on her cheek,

Her bodice rose and fell,

Her pretty speech, like drunken men,

Did stagger pitiful.

Her fingers fumbled at her work, —

Her needle would not go;

What ailed so smart a little maid

It puzzled me to know,

Till opposite I spied a cheek

That bore another rose;

Just opposite, another speech

That like the drunkard goes;

A vest that, like the bodice, danced

To the immortal tune, —

Till those two troubled little clocks

Ticked softly into one.


In lands I never saw, they say,

Immortal Alps look down,

Whose bonnets touch the firmament,

Whose sandals touch the town, —

Meek at whose everlasting feet

A myriad daisies play.

Which, sir, are you, and which am I,

Upon an August day?


The moon is distant from the sea,

And yet with amber hands

She leads him, docile as a boy,

Along appointed sands.

He never misses a degree;

Obedient to her eye,

He comes just so far toward the town,

Just so far goes away.

Oh, Signor, thine the amber hand,

And mine the distant sea, —

Obedient to the least command

Thine eyes impose on me.


He put the belt around my life, —

I heard the buckle snap,

And turned away, imperial,

My lifetime folding up

Deliberate, as a duke would do

A kingdom’s title-deed, —

Henceforth a dedicated sort,

A member of the cloud.

Yet not too far to come at call,

And do the little toils

That make the circuit of the rest,

And deal occasional smiles

To lives that stoop to notice mine

And kindly ask it in, —

Whose invitation, knew you not

For whom I must decline?


The Lost Jewel.

I held a jewel in my fingers

And went to sleep.

The day was warm, and winds were prosy;

I said: “’T will keep.”

I woke and chid my honest fingers, —

The gem was gone;

And now an amethyst remembrance

Is all I own.


What if I say I shall not wait?

What if I burst the fleshly gate

And pass, escaped, to thee?

What if I file this mortal off,

See where it hurt me, — that ’s enough, —

And wade in liberty?

They cannot take us any more, —

Dungeons may call, and guns implore;

Unmeaning now, to me,

As laughter was an hour ago,

Or laces, or a travelling show,

Or who died yesterday!


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