MANUSCRIPT: Five fair copies of this deservedly fame known to exist; a sixth, sent to the Norcross sisters, has pr destroyed. All were sent to correspondents and therefore i assurance ED felt about its quality. The copy reproduced above was sent to Mrs. Edward Tuckerman and is discussed below. seems to have been written about 1879. On the twelfth of May of that year Helen Hunt Jackson wrote ED from Colorado Springs thanking her for the "Bluebird." (See "Before you thought of Spring.") The letter (Harvard) concludes:
What should you think of trying your hand on the oriole? He will be along presently.
Presumably during the course of the summer ED replied thus (Bingham 99-3):
A Route of EvanescenceEvidently enclosed with it was the poem beginning "One of the ones that Midas touched."
The copy sent to Mrs. Edward Tuckerman cannot be dated with certainty but seems to be in the handwriting of ~880. The poem is introduced by the message:
I send you only a Humming Bird. Will you let me add a few Jasmin in a few Days?
In November 1880 ED enclosed a copy (BPL Higg 46) as one of four poems in a letter (Porter) to T. W. Higginson; she identified it in the letter by title as "A Humming-Bird," and he so endorsed it on the copy of the poem itself. In text and form it is identical with the copy to Mrs. Tuckerman except that the text is arranged as two quatrains. Late in 1882 she incorporated the poem in a note (Bingham) to Mabel Loomis Todd:
The poem follows, identical in text and form with the copy to Mrs. Tuckerman
except that there is no comma after "Tunis." A fifth copy (Bingham 106),
written about April 1883, was enclosed with two other poems in a letter to
Thomas Niles; the letter identifies it by title as "A Humming Bird." It is
identical in text and form with the copy to Mrs. Tuckerman except that line ~
ends with a comma and line 3 is without punctuation.
delusiveA possible reason for ED's selection of Tunis (line 7) is set forth in Frank Davidson, "A Note on Emily Dickinson's Use of Shakespeare," New England Quarterly, XVIII (1945), 407-408, which cites Antonio's comment to Sebastian about Claribel, in The Tempest (II, i, 246-248):
She that is queen of Tunis; she that dwellsFor a critical discussion of the imagery, see Grover Smith, "Dickinson's A Route of Evanescence," Explicator, VIII (1950), item 54.
PUBLICATION: The poem was first published in Atlantic Monthly, LXVIII (October 1891), 450, in an article which Higginson wrote dealing with the letters and poems he had received from ED. It was first collected in Poems (1891), 130, titled "The Humming-Bird," as it had been in the Atlantic article. The note to Mrs. Todd is in Letters (ed. 1894), 431; (ed. 193l), 420. The BPL copy is reproduced in facsimile in G. F. Whicher, This Was a Poet (New York, 1939), 263.