poems from dickinson to abigail cooper

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1599

MANUSCRIPTS: This poem survives in five copies, all written during 1884 and 1885. Four are finished drafts, and the fifth is the worksheet draft from which the fair copies derive. That reproduced above (New York Public Library) was enclosed in a letter to Benjamin Kimball, a Boston lawyer and a kinsman of Judge Otis P. Lord who had died 13 March 1884. Lord had been for many years an intimate friend of the Dickinson family. The lines, which here apply to him, were probably sent in February 1885. A second fair copy (H B 158), identical in text and form, is incorporated in a note to Sue written late in the summer of 1884, and the lines here apply to the memory of Samuel Bowles who had died in January 1878. They are introduced by the sentence (LL, 82):

You remember his swift way of wringing and flinging away a Theme, and others picking it up and gazing bewildered after him, and the prance that crossed his Eye at such times was unrepeatable -
A third fair copy (Bingham 99-15), identical in text and form with the above, is written on a half-sheet of stationery folded as if it had been enclosed in an envelope. A fourth copy (Bingham 100-14), similarly identical, is set down on two pieces of paper pinned together. Only the first three lines of the original worksheet draft (Bingham 102-65) survive:
Though the great Waters sleep
That they are still the Deep
We cannot doubt -

On the verso is the rough draft of the poem beginning "A World made penniless by that [his] departure." A fifth fair copy, now lost, appears to have been sent as a message of condolence to Mrs. J. S. Cooper.

PUBLICATION: The message to Mrs. Cooper is in Letters (ed. 1894), 392; (ed. 1931), 381; also LL (1924), 296. Part of the note to Sue, with the last three lines only of the poem, are in FF (1932), 266.

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Last updated on February 8, 2000