poems sent from dickinson to bowles

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1346

MANUSCRIPTS: There are two, both written about 1875. That reproduced above is in a letter (Bingham) written to Samuel Bowles, signed "Emily." It begins: "Dear friend. The Paper wanders so I cannot write my name on it, so I give you Father's Potrait instead." The poem then follows. Edward Dickinson had died 16 June 1874, and the poem may have been composed on the first anniversary of his death. By a slip of the pen, ED made "On" (line 10) read "One." The fair copy to Bowles is a redaction of the rough draft (Bingham 96-1) written in pencil on a half-sheet of note paper:

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
The Summer than the Autumn - lest
We turn the sun away

And count it almost an affront
The Presence to concede
Of one however lovely - note
The one that we have loved

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the shaft
Of Life's Declivity.

She wrote "spell" as suggested change for "sun" (line 4), but did not adopt it in the fair copy. For "shaft" (line 11) she offered "Thought - ," "site - ," and "Fact - ," but crossed them all out and triply underlined "shaft." The final readings of lines 5 and 10 in the fair copy are not suggested in the rough draft.

PUBLICATION: The letter to Bowles is in Letters (ed. 1894), 222; (ed. 1931), 208; also LL (1924), 285.

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Commentary copyright 1998 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Lara Vetter <lv26@umail.umd.edu>
Last updated on October 29, 1998