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"I did not deem that planetary forces annulled, but suffered an exchange of territory, or world."
~ Photo: skyscape, Irish Memorial Hunger Garden, NYC, from Pilgrimage    
Emily Dickinson
< Early Feminist Essays   |   Emily Dickinson's Nature Mysticism >
"Emily Dickinson's Letters" by Thomas Wentworth Higginson -- (pg.6)
text pub. Atlantic Monthly, October, 1891
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(page 6)

It would seem that at first I tried a little, -- a very little -- to lead her in the direction of rules and traditions; but I fear it was only perfunctory, and that she interested me more in her -- so to speak -- unregenerate condition. Still, she recognizes the endeavor. In this case, as will be seen, I called her attention to the fact that while she took pains to correct the spelling of a word, she was utterly careless of greater irregularities. It will be seen by her answer that with her usual naïve adroitness she turns my point: --

        DEAR FRIEND, -- Are these more orderly? I thank you for the truth.
        I had no monarch in my life, and cannot rule myself; and when I try to organize, my little force explodes and leaves me bare and charred.
        I think you called me "wayward." Will you help me improve?
        I suppose the pride that stops the breath, in the core of woods, is not of ourself.
        You say I confess the little mistake, and omit the large. Because I can see orthography; but the ignorance out of sight is my preceptor's charge.
        Of "shunning men and women," they talk of hallowed things, aloud, and embarrass my dog. He and I don't object to them, if they'll exist their side. I think Carl would please you. He is dumb, and brave. I think you would like the chestnut tree I met in my walk. It hit my notice suddenly, and I thought the skies were in blossom.
        Then there's a noiseless noise in the orchard that I let persons hear.
        You told me in one letter you could not come to see me "now," and I made no answer; not because I had none, but did not think myself the price that you should come so far.
        I do not ask so large a pleasure, lest you might deny me.
        You say, "Beyond your knowledge." You would not jest with me, because I believe you; but, preceptor, you cannot mean it?
        All men say "What" to me, but I thought it a fashion.
        When much in the woods, as a little girl, I was told that the snake would bite me, that I might pick a poisonous flower, or goblins kidnap me; but I went along and met no one but angels, who were far shyer of me than I could be of them, so I have n't that confidence in fraud which many exercise.
        I shall observe your precept, though I don't understand it, always.
        I marked a line in one verse, because I met it after I made it, and never consciously touch a paint mixed by another person.
        I do not let go it, because it is mine. Have you the portrait of Mrs. Browning?
        Persons sent me three. If you had none, will you have mine?

    YOUR SCHOLAR.                

A month or two after this I entered the volunteer army of the civil war, and must have written to her during the winter of 1862-63 from South Carolina or Florida, for the following reached me in camp: --

    AMHERST.

        DEAR FRIEND, -- I did not deem that planetary forces annulled, but suffered an exchange of territory, or world.
        I should have liked to see you before you became improbable. War feels to me an oblique place. Should there be other summers, would you perhaps come?
        I found you were gone, by accident, as I find systems are, or seasons of the year, and obtain no cause, but suppose it a treason of progress that dissolves as it goes. Carlo still remained, and I told him.

        Best gains must have the losses' test,
        To constitute them gains.

    My shaggy ally assented.
        Perhaps death gave me awe for friends, striking sharp and early, for I held them since in a brittle love, of more alarm than peace. I trust you may pass the limit of war; and though not reared to prayer, when service is had in church for our arms, I include yourself. . . . I was thinking to-day, as I noticed, that the "Supernatural" was only the Natural disclosed.

        Not "Revelation" 't is that waits,
        But our unfurnished eyes.

        But I fear I detain you. Should you, before this reaches you, experience immortality, who will inform me of the exchange? Could you, with honor, avoid death, I entreat you, sir. It would bereave

    Your GNOME.

    I trust the "Procession of Flowers" was not a premonition.

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