|"I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the wren; and my hair is bold, like the chestnut bur..." |
(winter wren, Wikipedia Commons)
< Early Feminist Essays | Emily Dickinson's Nature Mysticism >
"Emily Dickinson's Letters" by Thomas Wentworth Higginson -- (pg.5)|
text pub. Atlantic Monthly, October, 1891
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ith this came the poem already
published in her volume and entitled "Renunciation"; and also that beginning "Of
all the sounds dispatched abroad," thus
fixing approximately the date of those
two. I must soon have written to ask
her for her picture, that I might form
some impression of my enigmatical correspondent.
To this came the following
reply, in July, 1862: --
Could you believe me without? I had
no portrait, now, but am small, like the
wren; and my hair is bold, like the chestnut bur; and my eyes, like the sherry
in the glass, that the guest leaves.
Would this do just as well?
It often alarms father. He says death
might occur, and he has moulds of all
the rest, but has no mould of me; but I
noticed the quick wore off those things,
in a few days, and forestall the dishonor.
You will think no caprice of me.
You said "Dark." I know the butterfly, and the lizard, and the orchis. Are
not those your countrymen?
I am happy to be your scholar, and
will deserve the kindness I cannot repay.
If you truly consent, I recite now.
Will you tell me my fault, frankly as to
yourself, for I had rather wince than
die. Men do not call the surgeon to
commend the bone, but to set it, sir, and
fracture within is more critical. And
for this, preceptor, I shall bring you
obedience, the blossom from my garden,
and every gratitude I know.
Perhaps you smile at me. I could
not stop for that. My business is circumference.
An ignorance, not of customs, but if caught with the dawn,
or the sunset see me, myself the only kangaroo
among the beauty, sir, if you please, it
afflicts me, and I thought that instruction
would take it away.
Because you have much business, beside the growth of me, you will appoint,
yourself, how often I shall come, without your inconvenience.
And if at any time you regret you received me, or I prove a different fabric
to that you supposed, you must banish
When I state myself, as the representative
of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed
You are true about the "perfection."
To-day makes Yesterday mean.
You spoke of Pippa Passes. I never
heard anybody speak of Pippa Passes
before. You see my posture is benighted.
To thank you baffles me. Are you
perfectly powerful? Had I a pleasure
you had not, I could delight to bring it.
This was accompanied by this strong
poem, with its breathless conclusion.
The title is of my own giving: --
THE SAINTS' REST
Of tribulation, these are they,
Denoted by the white;
The spangled gowns, a lesser rank
Of victors designate.
All these did conquer; but the ones
Who overcame most times,
Wear nothing commoner than snow,
No ornaments but palms.
"Surrender" is a sort unknown
On this superior soil;
"Defeat" an outgrown anguish,
Remembered as the mile
Our panting ancle barely passed
When night devoured the road;
But we stood whispering in the house,
And all we said, was "Saved!"
[Note by the writer of the verses.] I spelled