letters from dickinson to abiah root

28 March 1846

Dearest Abiah

It is Sabbath Eve. All is still around me & I feel in a mood to answer your affectionate letter. I am alone before my little writing desk, & wishing I could write news to you as joyful as your letter to me contained. I am alone with God, & my mind is filled with many solemn thoughts which crowd themselves upon me with an irresistible force. I think of Dear Sarah & yourself as the only two out of our circle of five who have found a Saviour. I shed many a tear & gave many a serious thought to your letter & wished that I had found the peace which has been given to you. I had a melancholy pleasure in comparing your present feelings with what mine once were, but are no more. I think of the perfect happiness I experienced while I felt I was an heir of heaven as of a delightful dream, out of which the Evil one bid me wake & again return to the world & its pleasures. Would that I had not listened to his winning words! The few short moments in which I loved my Saviour I would not now exchange for a thousand worlds like this. It was then my greatest pleasure to commune alone with the great God & to feel that he would listen to my prayers. I determined to devote my whole life to his service & desired that all might taste of the stream of living water from which I cooled my thirst. But the world allured me & in an unguarded moment I listened to her syren voice. From that moment I seemed to lose my interest in heavenly things by degrees. Prayer in which I had taken such delight became a task & the small circle who met for prayer missed me from their number. Friends reasoned with me & told me of the danger I was in of grieving away the Holy spirit of God. I felt my danger & was alarmed in view of it, but I had rambled too far to return & ever since my heart has been growing harder & more distant from the truth & now I have bitterly to lament my folly--& also my own indifferent state at the present time.

I feel that I am sailing upon the brink of an awful precipice, from which I cannot escape & over which I fear my tiny boat will soon glide if I do not receive help from above. There is now a revival in College & many hearts have given way to the claims of God. What if it should extend to the village church and your friends A. & E. feel its influence. Would that it might be so.

Although I feel sad that one should be taken and the others left, yet it is with joy that Abby & I peruse your letter & read your decision in favor of Christ & though we are not in the fold yet I hope when the great sheperd at the last day separates the sheep from the goats we may hear his voice & be with the lambs upon the right hand of God. I know that I ought now to give myself away to God & spend the springtime of life in his service for it seems to me a mockery to spend life's summer & autumn in the service of Mammon & when the world no longer charms us, "When our eyes are dull of seeing & our ears of hearing, when the silver cord is loosed & the golden bowl broken" to yield our hearts, because we are afraid to do otherwise & give to God the miserable recompense of a sick bed for all his kindness to us. Surely it is a fearful thing to live & a very fearful thing to die & give up our account to the supreme ruler for all our sinful deeds & thoughts upon this probationary term of existence. I feel when I seriously reflect upon such things as Dr Young when he exclaimed, O! what a miracle to man is man--

Yesterday as I sat by the north window the funeral train entered the open gate of the church yard, following the remains of Judge Dickinson's wife to her long home. His wife has borne a long sickness of two or three years without a murmur. She relyed wholly upon the arm of God & he did not forsake her. She is now with the reedeemed in heaven & with the savior she has so long loved according to all human probability. I sincerely sympathise with you Dear A. in the loss of your friend E. Smith. Although I had never seen her, yet I loved her from your account of her & because she was your friend. I was in hopes I might at sometime meet her but God has ordained otherwise & I shall never see her except as a spirit above. I do not recollect ever hearing you speak of her religious views but I hope her treasure was in heaven. What a blow to the fond hopes of her parents & friends must her early death be. I have never lost but one friend near my age & with whom my thoughts & her own were the same. It was before you came to Amherst. My friend was Sophia Holland. She was too lovely for earth & she was transplanted from earth to heaven. I visited her often in sickness & watched over her bed. But at length Reason fled and the physician forbid any but the nurse to go into her room. Then it seemed to me I should die too if I could not be permitted to watch over her or even to look at her face. At length the doctor said she must die & allowed me to look at her a moment through the open door. I took off my shoes and stole softly to the sick room.

There she lay mild & beautiful as in health & her pale features lit up with an unearthly--smile. I looked as long as friends would permit & when they told me I must look no longer I let them lead me away. I shed no tear, for my heart was too full to weep, but after she was laid in her coffin & I felt I could not call her back again I gave way to a fixed melancholy.

I told no one the cause of my grief, though it was gnawing at my very heart strings. I was not well & I went to Boston & stayed a month & my health improved so that my spirits were better. I trust she is now in heaven & though I shall never forget her, yet I shall meet her in heaven. I know what your feelings must have been at her death, & rejoice that you have consolation from on high to bear it with submission.

Your aff.

Emily E Dickinson.

Please not let S. or any one see this letter. It is only for you. I carried your letter to Abby, & we read it together. I shall show it to no one else, of course, as I never show any of the letters of the 'five' to any one but Abby as she is one of them.

You ask me to excuse the freedom of your letter Dear A. I think all things should be free with friends, & therefore there is nothing to excuse. Do write me a long letter soon, & be sure & come home with Sabra, for I cannot wait any longer to see you. I really envy Sabra the pleasure of seeing you so soon & should not allow her to have any of you, did she not promise me faithfully to bring you home with her. Sabra says you have a new Piano & I rejoice with you that you have one. Viny says, give my love to Biah--as she always calls you & all the girls send much love to you. Now as a last warning, Dear A. Dont forget to come home with Sabra for it would so bitterly dissappoint us if you should not come.

thomas johnson's note on letter 11 | index to dickinson/root letters

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Last updated on February 25, 2008