They shut me up in Prose-
   As when a little Girl
   They put me in the Closet-
   Because they like me "still"-

   Still! Could themself have peeped-
   And seen my Brain-go round-
   They might as wise have lodged a Bird
   For Treason-in the Pound-

   Himself has but to will
   And easy as a Star
+ Abolish his-Captivity-
   And laugh-No more have I-

Notes on the Text

  1. In Unpublished Poems (1935), Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson place both occurances of the word still in quotation marks.  The manuscript and Johnson's versions both show the first, but not the second, enclosed in quotes.  Back.

  2. Bianchi and Hampson edit this to "themselves."  Although this is perhaps more grammatically correct, it does not connote the antagonists' lack of individuality in the way that the manuscript's "themself" does.  Back.

  3. In the manuscript, Dickinson breaks the line after "lodged" and places "a Bird" on its own line. None of the printed versions of this poem list this as a separate line. Although doing this would visually mimic the captivity of the bird, I also feel this is one line. The most compelling reason behind this decision lies in the capitalization pattern of the manuscript. While all of the other lines in the manuscript begin with an initial capital letter, "a Bird" begins with an obviously lowercase letter. Also, the length of the line in the manuscript leads me to believe that Dickinson could have run out of room. The word "lodged," which precedes the line break, is at the edge of the paper.  Back.

  4. Dickinson offers "Look down upon Captivity-" and "Abolish his-Captivity-".   A "note" at the bottom of the manuscript reads "+ Abolish his-".  Johnson's readers edition includes only the variant and does not include the "dash" between "his" and "Captivity."  Back.

  5. "No more have I" is rendered as "nor more have I" in the Bianchi-Hampson version of 1935.  Back.

  6. The Bianchi-Hampson version translates the closing punctuation marks for the final two stanzas as exclamation points.  In the manuscript, the sole exclamation point follows the first word of the second stanza, "Still."  Although these punctuation marks are clearly not exclamation points, they are also not clearly anything in particular.   Back.

Notes on the Process

Christopher McCarthy