poems sent from dickinson to austin dickinson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 333

MANUSCRIPTS: There are two, both written early in 1862. The fair copy reproduced above (Bingham 109-10) is addressed "Austin -." It is a redaction of the text in packet 14 (H 73a):

The Grass so little has to do,
A Sphere of simple Green -
With only Butterflies, to brood,
And Bees, to entertain -

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The Breezes fetch along,
And hold the Sunshine, in it's lap
And bow to everything,

And thread the Dews, all night, like Pearl,
And make itself so fine
A Duchess, were too Common
For such a noticing,

And even when it die, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices, gone to sleep -
Or Amulets of Pine -

And then to dwell in Sovreign Barns,
And dream the Days away,
The Grass so little has to do,
I wish I were a Hay -

The suggested change for line 16 is adopted in the copy to Austin, the word order in line 17 is latered, and the suggested changes for line 15 are rejected in favor of another: "lain to sleep." (ED generally preferred the past participle of the verb lay.) She made three further textual alterations:

9. Pearl] Pearls
13. die] dies
15. As] Like

PUBLICATION: Poems (1890), 78-79, titled "The Grass." The text derives from the packet copy to the extent that both suggested changes are rejected. It appears to adopt two words from the copy to Austin:

9. pearls
13. dies

These changes, however, are of the nature that Higginson nmight independently have made. Although Mrs. Todd ultimately came to have the copy to Austin, there is no reason to believe she had it at the time she was transcribing the packet copy for the printer. In Poems (1890) the last line reads:

I wish I were the hay!

Mrs. Bingham quotes her mother in AB, 58, on the reason for this alteration:

The quaintness of the [indefinite] article really appealed to me, but my trusted collaborator was decided on that line. "It cannot go in so," he exclaimed, "everybody would say that hay is a collective noun requiring the definite article. Nobody can call it a hay!" So I retired, feeling that of course he was right with regard to the public. But I have always had a sneaking desire to see a change back to the original version!

When Mrs. Bianchi included the poem in CP (1924), the packet copy was in her possession. There and in later collections the text is identical with that in Poems (1890) except for the last line, which is correctly rendered.

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Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Lara Vetter <lvetter@uncc.edu>
Last updated on February 25, 2008