Third Series

Emily Dickinson

Edited by

Mabel Loomis Todd

This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Table of Contents


I. Life.

II. Love.

III. Nature.

IV. Time and Eternity.

It’s all I have to bring today,

  This, and my heart beside,

This, and my heart, and all the fields,

  And all the meadows wide.

Be sure you count, should I forget, —

  Some one the sum could tell, —

This, and my heart, and all the bees

  Which in the clover dwell.


The intellectual activity of Emily Dickinson was so great that a large and characteristic choice is still possible among her literary material, and this third volume of her verses is put forth in response to the repeated wish of the admirers of her peculiar genius. Much of Emily Dickinson’s prose was rhythmic, — even rhymed, though frequently not set apart in lines.

Also many verses, written as such, were sent to friends in letters; these were published in 1894, in the volumes of her Letters. It has not been necessary, however, to include them in this Series, and all have been omitted, except three or four exceptionally strong ones, as “A Book,” and “With Flowers.”

There is internal evidence that many of the poems were simply spontaneous flashes of insight, apparently unrelated to outward circumstance. Others, however, had an obvious personal origin; for example, the verses “I had a Guinea golden,” which seem to have been sent to some friend travelling in Europe, as a dainty reminder of letter-writing delinquencies. The surroundings in which any of Emily Dickinson’s verses are known to have been written usually serve to explain them clearly; but in general the present volume is full of thoughts needing no interpretation to those who apprehend this scintillating spirit.

M. L. T.

Amherst, October, 1896.

I. Life.


Real Riches.

’T is little I could care for pearls

  Who own the ample sea;

Or brooches, when the Emperor

  With rubies pelteth me;

Or gold, who am the Prince of Mines;

  Or diamonds, when I see

A diadem to fit a dome

  Continual crowning me.


Superiority to Fate.

Superiority to fate

  Is difficult to learn.

’T is not conferred by any,

  But possible to earn

A pittance at a time,

  Until, to her surprise,

The soul with strict economy

  Subsists till Paradise.



Hope is a subtle glutton;

  He feeds upon the fair;

And yet, inspected closely,

  What abstinence is there!

His is the halcyon table

  That never seats but one,

And whatsoever is consumed

  The same amounts remain.


Forbidden Fruit.


Forbidden fruit a flavor has

  That lawful orchards mocks;

How luscious lies the pea within

  The pod that Duty locks!


Forbidden Fruit.


Heaven is what I cannot reach!

  The apple on the tree,

Provided it do hopeless hang,

  That ‘heaven’ is, to me.

The color on the cruising cloud,

  The interdicted ground

Behind the hill, the house behind, —

  There Paradise is found!


A Word.

A word is dead

When it is said,

  Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

  That day.


To venerate the simple days

  Which lead the seasons by,

Needs but to remember

  That from you or me

They may take the trifle

  Termed mortality!

To invest existence with a stately air,

Needs but to remember

  That the acorn there

Is the egg of forests

  For the upper air!


Life’s Trades.

It’s such a little thing to weep,

  So short a thing to sigh;

And yet by trades the size of these

  We men and women die!


Drowning is not so pitiful

  As the attempt to rise.

Three times, ’t is said, a sinking man

  Comes up to face the skies,

And then declines forever

  To that abhorred abode

Where hope and he part company, —

  For he is grasped of God.

The Maker’s cordial visage,

  However good to see,

Is shunned, we must admit it,

  Like an adversity.


How still the bells in steeples stand,

  Till, swollen with the sky,

They leap upon their silver feet

  In frantic melody!


If the foolish call them ‘flowers,’

  Need the wiser tell?

If the savans ‘classify’ them,

  It is just as well!

Those who read the Revelations

  Must not criticise

Those who read the same edition

  With beclouded eyes!

Could we stand with that old Moses

  Canaan denied, —

Scan, like him, the stately landscape

  On the other side, —

Doubtless we should deem superfluous

  Many sciences

Not pursued by learnèd angels

  In scholastic skies!

Low amid that glad Belles lettres

  Grant that we may stand,

Stars, amid profound Galaxies,

  At that grand ‘Right hand’!


A Syllable.

Could mortal lip divine

  The undeveloped freight

Of a delivered syllable,

  ’T would crumble with the weight.



My life closed twice before its close;

  It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

  A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,

  As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

  And all we need of hell.



We never know how high we are

  Till we are called to rise;

And then, if we are true to plan,

  Our statures touch the skies.

The heroism we recite

  Would be a daily thing,

Did not ourselves the cubits warp

  For fear to be a king.


The Inevitable.

While I was fearing it, it came,

  But came with less of fear,

Because that fearing it so long

  Had almost made it dear.

There is a fitting a dismay,

  A fitting a despair.

’Tis harder knowing it is due,

  Than knowing it is here.

The trying on the utmost,

  The morning it is new,

Is terribler than wearing it

  A whole existence through.


A Book.

There is no frigate like a book

  To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

  Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take

  Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

  That bears a human soul!


Who has not found the heaven below

  Will fail of it above.

God’s residence is next to mine,

  His furniture is love.


A Portrait.

A face devoid of love or grace,

  A hateful, hard, successful face,

A face with which a stone

  Would feel as thoroughly at ease

As were they old acquaintances, —

  First time together thrown.


I had a Guinea Golden.

I had a guinea golden;

  I lost it in the sand,

And though the sum was simple,

  And pounds were in the land,

Still had it such a value

  Unto my frugal eye,

That when I could not find it

  I sat me down to sigh.

I had a crimson robin

  Who sang full many a day,

But when the woods were painted

  He, too, did fly away.

Time brought me other robins, —

  Their ballads were the same, —

Still for my missing troubadour

  I kept the ‘house at hame.’

I had a star in heaven;

  One Pleiad was its name,

And when I was not heeding

  It wandered from the same.

And though the skies are crowded,

  And all the night ashine,

I do not care about it,

  Since none of them are mine.

My story has a moral:

  I have a missing friend, —

Pleiad its name, and robin,

  And guinea in the sand, —

And when this mournful ditty,

  Accompanied with tear,

Shall meet the eye of traitor

  In country far from here,

Grant that repentance solemn

  May seize upon his mind,

And he no consolation

  Beneath the sun may find.

NOTE. — This poem may have had, like many others, a

personal origin. It is more than probable that it was

sent to some friend travelling in Europe, a dainty

reminder of letter-writing delinquencies.


Saturday Afternoon.

From all the jails the boys and girls

  Ecstatically leap, —

Beloved, only afternoon

  That prison doesn’t keep.

They storm the earth and stun the air,

  A mob of solid bliss.

Alas! that frowns could lie in wait

  For such a foe as this!


Few get enough, — enough is one;

  To that ethereal throng

Have not each one of us the right

  To stealthily belong?


Upon the gallows hung a wretch,

  Too sullied for the hell

To which the law entitled him.

  As nature’s curtain fell

The one who bore him tottered in,

  For this was woman’s son.

”T was all I had,’ she stricken gasped;

  Oh, what a livid boon!


The Lost Thought.

I felt a clearing in my mind

  As if my brain had split;

I tried to match it, seam by seam,

  But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to join

  Unto the thought before,

But sequence ravelled out of reach

  Like balls upon a floor.



The reticent volcano keeps

  His never slumbering plan;

Confided are his projects pink

  To no precarious man.

If nature will not tell the tale

  Jehovah told to her,

Can human nature not survive

  Without a listener?

Admonished by her buckled lips

  Let every babbler be.

The only secret people keep

  Is Immortality.


With Flowers.

If recollecting were forgetting,

  Then I remember not;

And if forgetting, recollecting,

  How near I had forgot!

And if to miss were merry,

  And if to mourn were gay,

How very blithe the fingers

  That gathered these today!


The farthest thunder that I heard

  Was nearer than the sky,

And rumbles still, though torrid noons

  Have lain their missiles by.

The lightning that preceded it

  Struck no one but myself,

But I would not exchange the bolt

  For all the rest of life.

Indebtedness to oxygen

  The chemist may repay,

But not the obligation

  To electricity.

It founds the homes and decks the days,

  And every clamor bright

Is but the gleam concomitant

  Of that waylaying light.

The thought is quiet as a flake, —

  A crash without a sound;

How life’s reverberation

  Its explanation found!


On the bleakness of my lot

  Bloom I strove to raise.

Late, my acre of a rock

  Yielded grape and maize.

Soil of flint if steadfast tilled

  Will reward the hand;

Seed of palm by Lybian sun

  Fructified in sand.



A door just opened on a street —

  I, lost, was passing by —

An instant’s width of warmth disclosed,

  And wealth, and company.

The door as sudden shut, and I,

  I, lost, was passing by, —

Lost doubly, but by contrast most,

  Enlightening misery.



Are friends delight or pain?

  Could bounty but remain

Riches were good.

But if they only stay

Bolder to fly away,

  Riches are sad.



Ashes denote that fire was;

  Respect the grayest pile

For the departed creature’s sake

  That hovered there awhile.

Fire exists the first in light,

  And then consolidates, —

Only the chemist can disclose

  Into what carbonates.


A Man.

Fate slew him, but he did not drop;

  She felled — he did not fall —

Impaled him on her fiercest stakes —

  He neutralized them all.

She stung him, sapped his firm advance,

  But, when her worst was done,

And he, unmoved, regarded her,

  Acknowledged him a man.



Finite to fail, but infinite to venture.

  For the one ship that struts the shore

Many’s the gallant, overwhelmed creature

  Nodding in navies nevermore.



I measure every grief I meet

  With analytic eyes;

I wonder if it weighs like mine,

  Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,

  Or did it just begin?

I could not tell the date of mine,

  It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,

  And if they have to try,

And whether, could they choose between,

  They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled —

  Some thousands — on the cause

Of early hurt, if such a lapse

  Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still

  Through centuries above,

Enlightened to a larger pain

  By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;

  The reason deeper lies, —

Death is but one and comes but once,

  And only nails the eyes.

There’s grief of want, and grief of cold, —

  A sort they call ‘despair;’

There’s banishment from native eyes,

  In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind

  Correctly, yet to me

A piercing comfort it affords

  In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,

  Of those that stand alone,

Still fascinated to presume

  That some are like my own.


I have a king who does not speak;

So, wondering, thro’ the hours meek

  I trudge the day away —

Half glad when it is night and sleep,

If, haply, thro’ a dream to peep

  In parlors shut by day.

And if I do, when morning comes,

It is as if a hundred drums

  Did round my pillow roll,

And shouts fill all my childish sky,

And bells keep saying ‘victory’

  From steeples in my soul!

And if I don’t, the little Bird

Within the Orchard is not heard,

  And I omit to pray,

‘Father, thy will be done’ today,

For my will goes the other way,

  And it were perjury!



It dropped so low in my regard

  I heard it hit the ground,

And go to pieces on the stones

  At bottom of my mind;

Yet blamed the fate that fractured, less

  Than I reviled myself

For entertaining plated wares

  Upon my silver shelf.


Lost Faith.

To lose one’s faith surpasses

  The loss of an estate,

Because estates can be

  Replenished, — faith cannot.

Inherited with life,

  Belief but once can be;

Annihilate a single clause,

  And Being’s beggary.


Lost Joy.

I had a daily bliss

  I half indifferent viewed,

Till sudden I perceived it stir, —

  It grew as I pursued,

Till when, around a crag,

  It wasted from my sight,

Enlarged beyond my utmost scope,

  I learned its sweetness right.


I worked for chaff, and earning wheat

  Was haughty and betrayed.

What right had fields to arbitrate

  In matters ratified?

I tasted wheat, — and hated chaff,

  And thanked the ample friend;

Wisdom is more becoming viewed

  At distance than at hand.


Life, and Death, and Giants

  Such as these, are still.

Minor apparatus, hopper of the mill,

Beetle at the candle,

  Or a fife’s small fame,

Maintain by accident

  That they proclaim.


Alpine Glow.

Our lives are Swiss, —

  So still, so cool,

  Till, some odd afternoon,

The Alps neglect their curtains,

  And we look farther on.

Italy stands the other side,

  While, like a guard between,

The solemn Alps,

The siren Alps,

  Forever intervene!



Remembrance has a rear and front, —

  ’T is something like a house;

It has a garret also

  For refuse and the mouse,

Besides, the deepest cellar

  That ever mason hewed;

Look to it, by its fathoms

  Ourselves be not pursued.


To hang our head ostensibly,

  And subsequent to find

That such was not the posture

  Of our immortal mind,

Affords the sly presumption

  That, in so dense a fuzz,

You, too, take cobweb attitudes

  Upon a plane of gauze!


The Brain.

The brain is wider than the sky,

  For, put them side by side,

The one the other will include

  With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,

  For, hold them, blue to blue,

The one the other will absorb,

  As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,

  For, lift them, pound for pound,

And they will differ, if they do,

  As syllable from sound.


The bone that has no marrow;

  What ultimate for that?

It is not fit for table,

  For beggar, or for cat.

A bone has obligations,

  A being has the same;

A marrowless assembly

  Is culpabler than shame.

But how shall finished creatures

  A function fresh obtain? —

Old Nicodemus’ phantom

  Confronting us again!


The Past.

The past is such a curious creature,

  To look her in the face

A transport may reward us,

  Or a disgrace.

Unarmed if any meet her,

  I charge him, fly!

Her rusty ammunition

  Might yet reply!


To help our bleaker parts

  Salubrious hours are given,

Which if they do not fit for earth

  Drill silently for heaven.


What soft, cherubic creatures

  These gentlewomen are!

One would as soon assault a plush

  Or violate a star.

Such dimity convictions,

  A horror so refined

Of freckled human nature,

  Of Deity ashamed, —

It’s such a common glory,

  A fisherman’s degree!

Redemption, brittle lady,

  Be so, ashamed of thee.



Who never wanted, — maddest joy

  Remains to him unknown:

The banquet of abstemiousness

  Surpasses that of wine.

Within its hope, though yet ungrasped

  Desire’s perfect goal,

No nearer, lest reality

  Should disenthrall thy soul.



It might be easier

  To fail with land in sight,

Than gain my blue peninsula

  To perish of delight.



You cannot put a fire out;

  A thing that can ignite

Can go, itself, without a fan

  Upon the slowest night.

You cannot fold a flood

  And put it in a drawer, —

Because the winds would find it out,

  And tell your cedar floor.


A modest lot, a fame petite,

  A brief campaign of sting and sweet

  Is plenty! Is enough!

A sailor’s business is the shore,

  A soldier’s — balls. Who asketh more

Must seek the neighboring life!


Is bliss, then, such abyss

I must not put my foot amiss

For fear I spoil my shoe?

I’d rather suit my foot

Than save my boot,

For yet to buy another pair

Is possible

At any fair.

But bliss is sold just once;

The patent lost

None buy it any more.



I stepped from plank to plank

  So slow and cautiously;

The stars about my head I felt,

  About my feet the sea.

I knew not but the next

  Would be my final inch, —

This gave me that precarious gait

  Some call experience.


Thanksgiving Day.

One day is there of the series

  Termed Thanksgiving day,

Celebrated part at table,

  Part in memory.

Neither patriarch nor pussy,

  I dissect the play;

Seems it, to my hooded thinking,

  Reflex holiday.

Had there been no sharp subtraction

  From the early sum,

Not an acre or a caption

  Where was once a room,

Not a mention, whose small pebble

  Wrinkled any bay, —

Unto such, were such assembly,

  ’T were Thanksgiving day.


Childish Griefs.

Softened by Time’s consummate plush,

  How sleek the woe appears

That threatened childhood’s citadel

  And undermined the years!

Bisected now by bleaker griefs,

  We envy the despair

That devastated childhood’s realm,

  So easy to repair.

II. Love.



Proud of my broken heart since thou didst break it,

  Proud of the pain I did not feel till thee,

Proud of my night since thou with moons dost slake it,

  Not to partake thy passion, my humility.


Love’s Humility.

My worthiness is all my doubt,

  His merit all my fear,

Contrasting which, my qualities

  Do lowlier appear;

Lest I should insufficient prove

  For his beloved need,

The chiefest apprehension

  Within my loving creed.

So I, the undivine abode

  Of his elect content,

Conform my soul as ’t were a church

  Unto her sacrament.



Love is anterior to life,

  Posterior to death,

Initial of creation, and

  The exponent of breath.



One blessing had I, than the rest

  So larger to my eyes

That I stopped gauging, satisfied,

  For this enchanted size.

It was the limit of my dream,

  The focus of my prayer, —

A perfect, paralyzing bliss

  Contented as despair.

I knew no more of want or cold,

  Phantasms both become,

For this new value in the soul,

  Supremest earthly sum.

The heaven below the heaven above

  Obscured with ruddier hue.

Life’s latitude leant over-full;

  The judgment perished, too.

Why joys so scantily disburse,

  Why Paradise defer,

Why floods are served to us in bowls, —

  I speculate no more.


With a Flower.

When roses cease to bloom, dear,

  And violets are done,

When bumble-bees in solemn flight

  Have passed beyond the sun,

The hand that paused to gather

  Upon this summer’s day

Will idle lie, in Auburn, —

  Then take my flower, pray!



Summer for thee grant I may be

  When summer days are flown!

Thy music still when whippoorwill

  And oriole are done!

For thee to bloom, I’ll skip the tomb

  And sow my blossoms o’er!

Pray gather me, Anemone,

  Thy flower forevermore!



Split the lark and you’ll find the music,

  Bulb after bulb, in silver rolled,

Scantily dealt to the summer morning,

  Saved for your ear when lutes be old.

Loose the flood, you shall find it patent,

  Gush after gush, reserved for you;

Scarlet experiment! sceptic Thomas,

  Now, do you doubt that your bird was true?


To lose thee, sweeter than to gain

  All other hearts I knew.

’T is true the drought is destitute,

  But then I had the dew!

The Caspian has its realms of sand,

  Its other realm of sea;

Without the sterile perquisite

  No Caspian could be.


  Poor little heart!

  Did they forget thee?

Then dinna care! Then dinna care!

  Proud little heart!

  Did they forsake thee?

Be debonair! Be debonair!

  Frail little heart!

  I would not break thee:

Could’st credit me? Could’st credit me?

  Gay little heart!

  Like morning glory

Thou’ll wilted be; thou’ll wilted be!



There is a word

  Which bears a sword

  Can pierce an armed man.

It hurls its barbed syllables —

  At once is mute again.

But where it fell

The saved will tell

  On patriotic day,

Some epauletted brother

  Gave his breath away.

Wherever runs the breathless sun,

  Wherever roams the day,

There is its noiseless onset,

  There is its victory!

Behold the keenest marksman!

  The most accomplished shot!

Time’s sublimest target

  Is a soul ‘forgot’!


I’ve got an arrow here;

  Loving the hand that sent it,

I the dart revere.

Fell, they will say, in ‘skirmish’!

  Vanquished, my soul will know,

By but a simple arrow

  Sped by an archer’s bow.


The Master.

He fumbles at your spirit

  As players at the keys

Before they drop full music on;

  He stuns you by degrees,

Prepares your brittle substance

  For the ethereal blow,

By fainter hammers, further heard,

  Then nearer, then so slow

Your breath has time to straighten,

  Your brain to bubble cool, —

Deals one imperial thunderbolt

  That scalps your naked soul.


Heart, we will forget him!

  You and I, to-night!

You may forget the warmth he gave,

  I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,

  That I my thoughts may dim;

Haste! lest while you’re lagging,

  I may remember him!


Father, I bring thee not myself, —

  That were the little load;

I bring thee the imperial heart

  I had not strength to hold.

The heart I cherished in my own

  Till mine too heavy grew,

Yet strangest, heavier since it went,

  Is it too large for you?


We outgrow love like other things

  And put it in the drawer,

Till it an antique fashion shows

  Like costumes grandsires wore.


Not with a club the heart is broken,

    Nor with a stone;

A whip, so small you could not see it.

    I’ve known

To lash the magic creature

    Till it fell,

Yet that whip’s name too noble

    Then to tell.

Magnanimous of bird

    By boy descried,

To sing unto the stone

    Of which it died.



My friend must be a bird,

    Because it flies!

Mortal my friend must be,

    Because it dies!

Barbs has it, like a bee.

Ah, curious friend,

    Thou puzzlest me!


He touched me, so I live to know

That such a day, permitted so,

  I groped upon his breast.

It was a boundless place to me,

And silenced, as the awful sea

  Puts minor streams to rest.

And now, I’m different from before,

As if I breathed superior air,

  Or brushed a royal gown;

My feet, too, that had wandered so,

My gypsy face transfigured now

  To tenderer renown.



Let me not mar that perfect dream

  By an auroral stain,

But so adjust my daily night

  That it will come again.


Numen Lumen.

I live with him, I see his face;

  I go no more away

For visitor, or sundown;

  Death’s single privacy,

The only one forestalling mine,

  And that by right that he

Presents a claim invisible,

  No wedlock granted me.

I live with him, I hear his voice,

  I stand alive today

To witness to the certainty

  Of immortality

Taught me by Time, — the lower way,

  Conviction every day, —

That life like this is endless,

  Be judgment what it may.



I envy seas whereon he rides,

  I envy spokes of wheels

Of chariots that him convey,

  I envy speechless hills

That gaze upon his journey;

  How easy all can see

What is forbidden utterly

  As heaven, unto me!

I envy nests of sparrows

  That dot his distant eaves,

The wealthy fly upon his pane,

  The happy, happy leaves

That just abroad his window

  Have summer’s leave to be,

The earrings of Pizarro

  Could not obtain for me.

I envy light that wakes him,

  And bells that boldly ring

To tell him it is noon abroad, —

  Myself his noon could bring,

Yet interdict my blossom

  And abrogate my bee,

Lest noon in everlasting night

  Drop Gabriel and me.



A solemn thing it was, I said,

  A woman white to be,

And wear, if God should count me fit,

  Her hallowed mystery.

A timid thing to drop a life

  Into the purple well,

Too plummetless that it come back

  Eternity until.

III. Nature.


Nature’s Changes.

The springtime’s pallid landscape

  Will glow like bright bouquet,

Though drifted deep in parian

  The village lies today.

The lilacs, bending many a year,

  With purple load will hang;

The bees will not forget the tune

  Their old forefathers sang.

The rose will redden in the bog,

  The aster on the hill

Her everlasting fashion set,

  And covenant gentians frill,

Till summer folds her miracle

  As women do their gown,

Or priests adjust the symbols

  When sacrament is done.


The Tulip.

She slept beneath a tree

  Remembered but by me.

I touched her cradle mute;

She recognized the foot,

Put on her carmine suit, —

  And see!


A light exists in spring

  Not present on the year

At any other period.

  When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad

  On solitary hills

That science cannot overtake,

  But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;

  It shows the furthest tree

Upon the furthest slope we know;

  It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,

  Or noons report away,

Without the formula of sound,

  It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss

  Affecting our content,

As trade had suddenly encroached

  Upon a sacrament.


The Waking Year.

A lady red upon the hill

  Her annual secret keeps;

A lady white within the field

  In placid lily sleeps!

The tidy breezes with their brooms

  Sweep vale, and hill, and tree!

Prithee, my pretty housewives!

  Who may expected be?

The neighbors do not yet suspect!

  The woods exchange a smile —

Orchard, and buttercup, and bird —

  In such a little while!

And yet how still the landscape stands,

  How nonchalant the wood,

As if the resurrection

  Were nothing very odd!


To March.

Dear March, come in!

How glad I am!

I looked for you before.

Put down your hat —

You must have walked —

How out of breath you are!

Dear March, how are you?

And the rest?

Did you leave Nature well?

Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,

I have so much to tell!

I got your letter, and the birds’;

The maples never knew

That you were coming, — I declare,

How red their faces grew!

But, March, forgive me —

And all those hills

You left for me to hue;

There was no purple suitable,

You took it all with you.

Who knocks? That April!

Lock the door!

I will not be pursued!

He stayed away a year, to call

When I am occupied.

But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come,

That blame is just as dear as praise

And praise as mere as blame.



We like March, his shoes are purple,

  He is new and high;

Makes he mud for dog and peddler,

  Makes he forest dry;

Knows the adder’s tongue his coming,

  And begets her spot.

Stands the sun so close and mighty

  That our minds are hot.

News is he of all the others;

  Bold it were to die

With the blue-birds buccaneering

  On his British sky.



Not knowing when the dawn will come

  I open every door;

Or has it feathers like a bird,

  Or billows like a shore?


A murmur in the trees to note,

  Not loud enough for wind;

A star not far enough to seek,

  Nor near enough to find;

A long, long yellow on the lawn,

  A hubbub as of feet;

Not audible, as ours to us,

  But dapperer, more sweet;

A hurrying home of little men

  To houses unperceived, —

All this, and more, if I should tell,

  Would never be believed.

Of robins in the trundle bed

  How many I espy

Whose nightgowns could not hide the wings,

  Although I heard them try!

But then I promised ne’er to tell;

  How could I break my word?

So go your way and I’ll go mine, —

  No fear you’ll miss the road.


Morning is the place for dew,

  Corn is made at noon,

After dinner light for flowers,

  Dukes for setting sun!


To my quick ear the leaves conferred;

  The bushes they were bells;

I could not find a privacy

  From Nature’s sentinels.

In cave if I presumed to hide,

  The walls began to tell;

Creation seemed a mighty crack

  To make me visible.


A Rose.

A sepal, petal, and a thorn

  Upon a common summer’s morn,

A flash of dew, a bee or two,

A breeze

A caper in the trees, —

  And I’m a rose!


High from the earth I heard a bird;

  He trod upon the trees

As he esteemed them trifles,

  And then he spied a breeze,

And situated softly

  Upon a pile of wind

Which in a perturbation

  Nature had left behind.

A joyous-going fellow

  I gathered from his talk,

Which both of benediction

  And badinage partook,

Without apparent burden,

  I learned, in leafy wood

He was the faithful father

  Of a dependent brood;

And this untoward transport

  His remedy for care, —

A contrast to our respites.

  How different we are!



The spider as an artist

  Has never been employed

Though his surpassing merit

  Is freely certified

By every broom and Bridget

  Throughout a Christian land.

Neglected son of genius,

  I take thee by the hand.


A Well.

What mystery pervades a well!

  The water lives so far,

Like neighbor from another world

  Residing in a jar.

The grass does not appear afraid;

  I often wonder he

Can stand so close and look so bold

  At what is dread to me.

Related somehow they may be, —

  The sedge stands next the sea,

Where he is floorless, yet of fear

  No evidence gives he.

But nature is a stranger yet;

  The ones that cite her most

Have never passed her haunted house,

  Nor simplified her ghost.

To pity those that know her not

  Is helped by the regret

That those who know her, know her less

  The nearer her they get.


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, —

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.


The Wind.

It’s like the light, —

  A fashionless delight

It’s like the bee, —

  A dateless melody.

It’s like the woods,

  Private like breeze,

Phraseless, yet it stirs

  The proudest trees.

It’s like the morning, —

  Best when it’s done, —

The everlasting clocks

  Chime noon.


A dew sufficed itself

  And satisfied a leaf,

And felt, ‘how vast a destiny!

  How trivial is life!’

The sun went out to work,

  The day went out to play,

But not again that dew was seen

  By physiognomy.

Whether by day abducted,

  Or emptied by the sun

Into the sea, in passing,

  Eternally unknown.


The Woodpecker.

His bill an auger is,

  His head, a cap and frill.

He laboreth at every tree, —

  A worm his utmost goal.


A Snake.

Sweet is the swamp with its secrets,

  Until we meet a snake;

’T is then we sigh for houses,

  And our departure take

At that enthralling gallop

  That only childhood knows.

A snake is summer’s treason,

  And guile is where it goes.


Could I but ride indefinite,

  As doth the meadow-bee,

And visit only where I liked,

  And no man visit me,

And flirt all day with buttercups,

  And marry whom I may,

And dwell a little everywhere,

  Or better, run away

With no police to follow,

  Or chase me if I do,

Till I should jump peninsulas

  To get away from you, —

I said, but just to be a bee

  Upon a raft of air,

And row in nowhere all day long,

  And anchor off the bar —

What liberty! So captives deem

  Who tight in dungeons are.


The Moon.

The moon was but a chin of gold

  A night or two ago,

And now she turns her perfect face

  Upon the world below.

Her forehead is of amplest blond;

  Her cheek like beryl stone;

Her eye unto the summer dew

  The likest I have known.

Her lips of amber never part;

  But what must be the smile

Upon her friend she could bestow

  Were such her silver will!

And what a privilege to be

  But the remotest star!

For certainly her way might pass

  Beside your twinkling door.

Her bonnet is the firmament,

  The universe her shoe,

The stars the trinkets at her belt,

  Her dimities of blue.


The Bat.

The bat is dun with wrinkled wings

  Like fallow article,

And not a song pervades his lips,

  Or none perceptible.

His small umbrella, quaintly halved,

  Describing in the air

An arc alike inscrutable, —

  Elate philosopher!

Deputed from what firmament

  Of what astute abode,

Empowered with what malevolence

  Auspiciously withheld.

To his adroit Creator

  Ascribe no less the praise;

Beneficent, believe me,

  His eccentricities.


The Balloon.

You’ve seen balloons set, haven’t you?

  So stately they ascend

It is as swans discarded you

  For duties diamond.

Their liquid feet go softly out

  Upon a sea of blond;

They spurn the air as ’t were too mean

  For creatures so renowned.

Their ribbons just beyond the eye,

  They struggle some for breath,

And yet the crowd applauds below;

  They would not encore death.

The gilded creature strains and spins,

  Trips frantic in a tree,

Tears open her imperial veins

  And tumbles in the sea.

The crowd retire with an oath

  The dust in streets goes down,

And clerks in counting-rooms observe,

  ”T was only a balloon.’



The cricket sang,

And set the sun,

And workmen finished, one by one,

  Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,

The twilight stood as strangers do

With hat in hand, polite and new,

  To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came, —

A wisdom without face or name,

A peace, as hemispheres at home, —

  And so the night became.



Drab habitation of whom?

Tabernacle or tomb,

Or dome of worm,

Or porch of gnome,

Or some elf’s catacomb?



A sloop of amber slips away

  Upon an ether sea,

And wrecks in peace a purple tar,

  The son of ecstasy.



Of bronze and blaze

  The north, to-night!

  So adequate its forms,

So preconcerted with itself,

  So distant to alarms, —

An unconcern so sovereign

  To universe, or me,

It paints my simple spirit

  With tints of majesty,

Till I take vaster attitudes,

  And strut upon my stem,

Disdaining men and oxygen,

  For arrogance of them.

My splendors are menagerie;

  But their competeless show

Will entertain the centuries

  When I am, long ago,

An island in dishonored grass,

  Whom none but daisies know.


The Coming of Night.

How the old mountains drip with sunset,

  And the brake of dun!

How the hemlocks are tipped in tinsel

  By the wizard sun!

How the old steeples hand the scarlet,

  Till the ball is full, —

Have I the lip of the flamingo

  That I dare to tell?

Then, how the fire ebbs like billows,

  Touching all the grass

With a departing, sapphire feature,

  As if a duchess pass!

How a small dusk crawls on the village

  Till the houses blot;

And the odd flambeaux no men carry

  Glimmer on the spot!

Now it is night in nest and kennel,

  And where was the wood,

Just a dome of abyss is nodding

  Into solitude! —

These are the visions baffled Guido;

  Titian never told;

Domenichino dropped the pencil,

  Powerless to unfold.



The murmuring of bees has ceased;

  But murmuring of some

Posterior, prophetic,

  Has simultaneous come, —

The lower metres of the year,

  When nature’s laugh is done, —

The Revelations of the book

  Whose Genesis is June.

IV. Time and Eternity.


This world is not conclusion;

  A sequel stands beyond,

Invisible, as music,

  But positive, as sound.

It beckons and it baffles;

  Philosophies don’t know,

And through a riddle, at the last,

  Sagacity must go.

To guess it puzzles scholars;

  To gain it, men have shown

Contempt of generations,

  And crucifixion known.


We learn in the retreating

  How vast an one

Was recently among us.

  A perished sun

Endears in the departure

  How doubly more

Than all the golden presence

  It was before!


They say that ‘time assuages,’ —

  Time never did assuage;

An actual suffering strengthens,

  As sinews do, with age.

Time is a test of trouble,

  But not a remedy.

If such it prove, it prove too

  There was no malady.


We cover thee, sweet face.

  Not that we tire of thee,

But that thyself fatigue of us;

  Remember, as thou flee,

We follow thee until

  Thou notice us no more,

And then, reluctant, turn away

  To con thee o’er and o’er,

And blame the scanty love

  We were content to show,

Augmented, sweet, a hundred fold

  If thou would’st take it now.



That is solemn we have ended, —

  Be it but a play,

Or a glee among the garrets,

  Or a holiday,

Or a leaving home; or later,

  Parting with a world

We have understood, for better

  Still it be unfurled.


The stimulus, beyond the grave

  His countenance to see,

Supports me like imperial drams

  Afforded royally.


Given in marriage unto thee,

  Oh, thou celestial host!

Bride of the Father and the Son,

  Bride of the Holy Ghost!

Other betrothal shall dissolve,

  Wedlock of will decay;

Only the keeper of this seal

  Conquers mortality.


That such have died enables us

  The tranquiller to die;

That such have lived, certificate

  For immortality.


They won’t frown always, — some sweet day

  When I forget to tease,

They’ll recollect how cold I looked,

  And how I just said ‘please.’

Then they will hasten to the door

  To call the little child,

Who cannot thank them, for the ice

  That on her lisping piled.



It is an honorable thought,

  And makes one lift one’s hat,

As one encountered gentlefolk

  Upon a daily street,

That we’ve immortal place,

  Though pyramids decay,

And kingdoms, like the orchard,

  Flit russetly away.


The distance that the dead have gone

  Does not at first appear;

Their coming back seems possible

  For many an ardent year.

And then, that we have followed them

  We more than half suspect,

So intimate have we become

  With their dear retrospect.


How dare the robins sing,

  When men and women hear

Who since they went to their account

  Have settled with the year! —

Paid all that life had earned

  In one consummate bill,

And now, what life or death can do

  Is immaterial.

Insulting is the sun

  To him whose mortal light,

Beguiled of immortality,

  Bequeaths him to the night.

In deference to him

  Extinct be every hum,

Whose garden wrestles with the dew,

  At daybreak overcome!



Death is like the insect

  Menacing the tree,

Competent to kill it,

  But decoyed may be.

Bait it with the balsam,

  Seek it with the knife,

Baffle, if it cost you

  Everything in life.

Then, if it have burrowed

  Out of reach of skill,

Ring the tree and leave it, —

  ’T is the vermin’s will.



’T is sunrise, little maid, hast thou

  No station in the day?

’T was not thy wont to hinder so, —

  Retrieve thine industry.

’T is noon, my little maid, alas!

  And art thou sleeping yet?

The lily waiting to be wed,

  The bee, dost thou forget?

My little maid, ’t is night; alas,

  That night should be to thee

Instead of morning! Hadst thou broached

  Thy little plan to me,

Dissuade thee if I could not, sweet,

  I might have aided thee.


Each that we lose takes part of us;

  A crescent still abides,

Which like the moon, some turbid night,

  Is summoned by the tides.


Not any higher stands the grave

  For heroes than for men;

Not any nearer for the child

  Than numb three-score and ten.

This latest leisure equal lulls

  The beggar and his queen;

Propitiate this democrat

  By summer’s gracious mien.



As far from pity as complaint,

  As cool to speech as stone,

As numb to revelation

  As if my trade were bone.

As far from time as history,

  As near yourself today

As children to the rainbow’s scarf,

  Or sunset’s yellow play

To eyelids in the sepulchre.

  How still the dancer lies,

While color’s revelations break,

  And blaze the butterflies!


The Spirit.

’T is whiter than an Indian pipe,

  ’T is dimmer than a lace;

No stature has it, like a fog,

  When you approach the place.

Not any voice denotes it here,

  Or intimates it there;

A spirit, how doth it accost?

  What customs hath the air?

This limitless hyperbole

  Each one of us shall be;

’T is drama, if (hypothesis)

  It be not tragedy!


The Monument.

She laid her docile crescent down,

  And this mechanic stone

Still states, to dates that have forgot,

  The news that she is gone.

So constant to its stolid trust,

  The shaft that never knew,

It shames the constancy that fled

  Before its emblem flew.


Bless God, he went as soldiers,

  His musket on his breast;

Grant, God, he charge the bravest

  Of all the martial blest.

Please God, might I behold him

  In epauletted white,

I should not fear the foe then,

  I should not fear the fight.


Immortal is an ample word

  When what we need is by,

But when it leaves us for a time,

  ’T is a necessity.

Of heaven above the firmest proof

  We fundamental know,

Except for its marauding hand,

  It had been heaven below.


Where every bird is bold to go,

  And bees abashless play,

The foreigner before he knocks

  Must thrust the tears away.


The grave my little cottage is,

  Where, keeping house for thee,

I make my parlor orderly,

  And lay the marble tea,

For two divided, briefly,

  A cycle, it may be,

Till everlasting life unite

  In strong society.


This was in the white of the year,

  That was in the green,

Drifts were as difficult then to think

  As daisies now to be seen.

Looking back is best that is left,

  Or if it be before,

Retrospection is prospect’s half,

  Sometimes almost more.


Sweet hours have perished here;

  This is a mighty room;

Within its precincts hopes have played, —

  Now shadows in the tomb.


Me! Come! My dazzled face

In such a shining place!

Me! Hear! My foreign ear

The sounds of welcome near!

The saints shall meet

Our bashful feet.

My holiday shall be

That they remember me;

My paradise, the fame

That they pronounce my name.



From us she wandered now a year,

  Her tarrying unknown;

If wilderness prevent her feet,

  Or that ethereal zone

No eye hath seen and lived,

  We ignorant must be.

We only know what time of year

  We took the mystery.


I wish I knew that woman’s name,

  So, when she comes this way,

To hold my life, and hold my ears,

  For fear I hear her say

She’s ‘sorry I am dead,’ again,

  Just when the grave and I

Have sobbed ourselves almost to sleep, —

  Our only lullaby.


Trying to Forget.

Bereaved of all, I went abroad,

  No less bereaved to be

Upon a new peninsula, —

  The grave preceded me,

Obtained my lodgings ere myself,

  And when I sought my bed,

The grave it was, reposed upon

  The pillow for my head.

I waked, to find it first awake,

  I rose, — it followed me;

I tried to drop it in the crowd,

  To lose it in the sea,

In cups of artificial drowse

  To sleep its shape away, —

The grave was finished, but the spade

  Remained in memory.


I felt a funeral in my brain,

  And mourners, to and fro,

Kept treading, treading, till it seemed

  That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,

  A service like a drum

Kept beating, beating, till I thought

  My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,

  And creak across my soul

With those same boots of lead, again.

  Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,

  And Being but an ear,

And I and silence some strange race,

  Wrecked, solitary, here.


I meant to find her when I came;

  Death had the same design;

But the success was his, it seems,

  And the discomfit mine.

I meant to tell her how I longed

  For just this single time;

But Death had told her so the first,

  And she had hearkened him.

To wander now is my abode;

  To rest, — to rest would be

A privilege of hurricane

  To memory and me.



I sing to use the waiting,

  My bonnet but to tie,

And shut the door unto my house;

  No more to do have I,

Till, his best step approaching,

  We journey to the day,

And tell each other how we sang

  To keep the dark away.


A sickness of this world it most occasions

  When best men die;

A wishfulness their far condition

  To occupy.

A chief indifference, as foreign

  A world must be

Themselves forsake contented,

  For Deity.


Superfluous were the sun

  When excellence is dead;

He were superfluous every day,

  For every day is said

That syllable whose faith

  Just saves it from despair,

And whose ‘I’ll meet you’ hesitates

  If love inquire, ‘Where?’

Upon his dateless fame

  Our periods may lie,

As stars that drop anonymous

  From an abundant sky.


So proud she was to die

  It made us all ashamed

That what we cherished, so unknown

  To her desire seemed.

So satisfied to go

  Where none of us should be,

Immediately, that anguish stooped

  Almost to jealousy.



Tie the strings to my life, my Lord,

  Then I am ready to go!

Just a look at the horses —

  Rapid! That will do!

Put me in on the firmest side,

  So I shall never fall;

For we must ride to the Judgment,

  And it’s partly down hill.

But never I mind the bridges,

  And never I mind the sea;

Held fast in everlasting race

  By my own choice and thee.

Good-by to the life I used to live,

  And the world I used to know;

And kiss the hills for me, just once;

  Now I am ready to go!


The dying need but little, dear, —

  A glass of water’s all,

A flower’s unobtrusive face

  To punctuate the wall,

A fan, perhaps, a friend’s regret,

  And certainly that one

No color in the rainbow

  Perceives when you are gone.



There’s something quieter than sleep

  Within this inner room!

It wears a sprig upon its breast,

  And will not tell its name.

Some touch it and some kiss it,

  Some chafe its idle hand;

It has a simple gravity

  I do not understand!

While simple-hearted neighbors

  Chat of the ‘early dead,’

We, prone to periphrasis,

  Remark that birds have fled!


The soul should always stand ajar,

  That if the heaven inquire,

He will not be obliged to wait,

  Or shy of troubling her.

Depart, before the host has slid

  The bolt upon the door,

To seek for the accomplished guest, —

  Her visitor no more.


Three weeks passed since I had seen her, —

  Some disease had vexed;

’T was with text and village singing

  I beheld her next,

And a company — our pleasure

  To discourse alone;

Gracious now to me as any,

  Gracious unto none.

Borne, without dissent of either,

  To the parish night;

Of the separated people

  Which are out of sight?


I breathed enough to learn the trick,

  And now, removed from air,

I simulate the breath so well,

  That one, to be quite sure

The lungs are stirless, must descend

  Among the cunning cells,

And touch the pantomime himself.

  How cool the bellows feels!


I wonder if the sepulchre

  Is not a lonesome way,

When men and boys, and larks and June

  Go down the fields to hay!


Joy in Death.

If tolling bell I ask the cause.

  ‘A soul has gone to God,’

I’m answered in a lonesome tone;

  Is heaven then so sad?

That bells should joyful ring to tell

  A soul had gone to heaven,

Would seem to me the proper way

  A good news should be given.


If I may have it when it’s dead

  I will contented be;

If just as soon as breath is out

  It shall belong to me,

Until they lock it in the grave,

  ’T is bliss I cannot weigh,

For though they lock thee in the grave,

  Myself can hold the key.

Think of it, lover! I and thee

  Permitted face to face to be;

After a life, a death we’ll say, —

  For death was that, and this is thee.


Before the ice is in the pools,

  Before the skaters go,

Or any cheek at nightfall

  Is tarnished by the snow,

Before the fields have finished,

  Before the Christmas tree,

Wonder upon wonder

  Will arrive to me!

What we touch the hems of

  On a summer’s day;

What is only walking

  Just a bridge away;

That which sings so, speaks so,

  When there’s no one here, —

Will the frock I wept in

  Answer me to wear?



I heard a fly buzz when I died;

  The stillness round my form

Was like the stillness in the air

  Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry,

  And breaths were gathering sure

For that last onset, when the king

  Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away

  What portion of me I

Could make assignable, — and then

  There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,

  Between the light and me;

And then the windows failed, and then

  I could not see to see.


Adrift! A little boat adrift!

  And night is coming down!

Will no one guide a little boat

  Unto the nearest town?

So sailors say, on yesterday,

  Just as the dusk was brown,

One little boat gave up its strife,

  And gurgled down and down.

But angels say, on yesterday,

  Just as the dawn was red,

One little boat o’erspent with gales

Retrimmed its masts, redecked its sails

  Exultant, onward sped!


There’s been a death in the opposite house

  As lately as today.

I know it by the numb look

  Such houses have alway.

The neighbors rustle in and out,

  The doctor drives away.

A window opens like a pod,

  Abrupt, mechanically;

Somebody flings a mattress out, —

  The children hurry by;

They wonder if It died on that, —

  I used to when a boy.

The minister goes stiffly in

  As if the house were his,

And he owned all the mourners now,

  And little boys besides;

And then the milliner, and the man

  Of the appalling trade,

To take the measure of the house.

  There’ll be that dark parade

Of tassels and of coaches soon;

  It’s easy as a sign, —

The intuition of the news

  In just a country town.


We never know we go, — when we are going

  We jest and shut the door;

Fate following behind us bolts it,

  And we accost no more.


The Soul’s Storm.

It struck me every day

  The lightning was as new

As if the cloud that instant slit

  And let the fire through.

It burned me in the night,

  It blistered in my dream;

It sickened fresh upon my sight

  With every morning’s beam.

I thought that storm was brief, —

  The maddest, quickest by;

But Nature lost the date of this,

  And left it in the sky.


Water is taught by thirst;

Land, by the oceans passed;

  Transport, by throe;

Peace, by its battles told;

Love, by memorial mould;

  Birds, by the snow.



We thirst at first, — ’t is Nature’s act;

  And later, when we die,

A little water supplicate

  Of fingers going by.

It intimates the finer want,

  Whose adequate supply

Is that great water in the west

  Termed immortality.


A clock stopped — not the mantel’s;

  Geneva’s farthest skill

Can’t put the puppet bowing

  That just now dangled still.

An awe came on the trinket!

  The figures hunched with pain,

Then quivered out of decimals

  Into degreeless noon.

It will not stir for doctors,

  This pendulum of snow;

The shopman importunes it,

  While cool, concernless No

Nods from the gilded pointers,

  Nods from the seconds slim,

Decades of arrogance between

  The dial life and him.


Charlotte Brontë‘s Grave.

All overgrown by cunning moss,

  All interspersed with weed,

The little cage of ‘Currer Bell,’

  In quiet Haworth laid.

This bird, observing others,

  When frosts too sharp became,

Retire to other latitudes,

  Quietly did the same,

But differed in returning;

  Since Yorkshire hills are green,

Yet not in all the nests I meet

  Can nightingale be seen.

Gathered from many wanderings,

  Gethsemane can tell

Through what transporting anguish

  She reached the asphodel!

Soft fall the sounds of Eden

  Upon her puzzled ear;

Oh, what an afternoon for heaven,

  When ‘Brontë’ entered there!


A toad can die of light!

Death is the common right

  Of toads and men, —

Of earl and midge

The privilege.

  Why swagger then?

The gnat’s supremacy

Is large as thine.


Far from love the Heavenly Father

  Leads the chosen child;

Oftener through realm of briar

  Than the meadow mild,

Oftener by the claw of dragon

  Than the hand of friend,

Guides the little one predestined

  To the native land.



A long, long sleep, a famous sleep

  That makes no show for dawn

By stretch of limb or stir of lid, —

  An independent one.

Was ever idleness like this?

  Within a hut of stone

To bask the centuries away

  Nor once look up for noon?



’T was just this time last year I died.

  I know I heard the corn,

When I was carried by the farms, —

  It had the tassels on.

I thought how yellow it would look

  When Richard went to mill;

And then I wanted to get out,

  But something held my will.

I thought just how red apples wedged

  The stubble’s joints between;

And carts went stooping round the fields

  To take the pumpkins in.

I wondered which would miss me least,

  And when Thanksgiving came,

If father’d multiply the plates

  To make an even sum.

And if my stocking hung too high,

  Would it blur the Christmas glee,

That not a Santa Claus could reach

  The altitude of me?

But this sort grieved myself, and so

  I thought how it would be

When just this time, some perfect year,

  Themselves should come to me.



On this wondrous sea,

Sailing silently,

  Ho! pilot, ho!

Knowest thou the shore

Where no breakers roar,

  Where the storm is o’er?

In the silent west

Many sails at rest,

  Their anchors fast;

Thither I pilot thee, —

Land, ho! Eternity!

  Ashore at last!

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005