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Emily Dickinson
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"Emily Dickinson's Letters" by Thomas Wentworth Higginson -- (pg.11)
text pub. Atlantic Monthly, October, 1891
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(page 11)
A year afterwards came this : --

    DEAR FRIEND, -- Mother was paralyzed Tuesday, a year from the evening father died. I thought perhaps you would care.
    Your SCHOLAR.                  

With this came the following verse, having a curious seventeenth-century flavor --

     A death-blow is a life-blow to some,
     Who, till they died, did not alive become;
     Who, had they lived, had died, but when
     They died, vitality begun.

And later came this kindred memorial of one of the oldest and most faithful friends of the family, Mr. Samuel Bowles of the Springfield Republican: --

        DEAR FRIEND, -- I felt it shelter to speak to you.
        My brother and sister are with Mr. Bowles, who is buried this afternoon.
        The last song that I heard -- that was, since the birds -- was "He leadeth me, he leadeth me; yea, though I walk" -- then the voices stooped, the arch was so low.

After this added bereavement the inward life of the diminished household became only more concentrated, and the world was held farther and farther away. Yet to this period belongs the following letter, written about 1880, which has more of what is commonly called the objective or external quality than any she ever wrote me; and shows how close might have been her observation and her sympathy, had her rare qualities taken a somewhat different channel: --

        DEAR FRIEND, -- I was touchingly reminded of [a child who had died] this morning by an Indian woman with gay baskets and a dazzling baby, at the kitchen door. Her little boy "once died," she said, death to her dispelling him. I asked her what the baby liked, and she said "to step." The prairie before the door was gay with flowers of hay, and I led her in. She argued with the birds, she leaned on clover walls and they fell, and dropped her. With jargon sweeter than a bell, she grappled buttercups, and they sank together, the buttercups the heaviest. What sweetest use of days! It was noting some such scene made Vaughan humbly say, "My days that are at best but dim and hoary." I think it was Vaughan...

And these few fragmentary memorials -- closing, like every human biography, with funerals, yet with such as were to Emily Dickinson only the stately introduction to a higher life -- may well end with her description of the death of the very summer she so loved.

     As imperceptibly as grief
     The summer lapsed away,
     Too imperceptible at last
     To feel like perfidy.

     A quietness distilled,
     As twilight long begun,
     Or Nature spending with herself
     Sequestered afternoon.

     The dusk drew earlier in,
     The morning foreign shone,
     A courteous yet harrowing grace
     As guest that would be gone.

     And thus without a wing
     Or service of a keel
     Our summer made her light escape
     Into the Beautiful.


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