poems sent from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 323

MANUSCRIPTS: There are three. The copy reproduced above is incorporated in a letter written to T. W. Higginson (BPL Higg 52), postmarked 7 June 1862. The text is identical, except for a variant last line, with the copy in packet 82 (Bingham 13C), written about 1858:

As if I asked a common alms-
And in my wondering hand,
A stranger pressed a kingdom-
And I - bewildered stand -
As if I asked the Orient
Had it for me a Morn?
And it sh'd lift it's purple dikes
And flood me with the Dawn!

A third copy (Bingham), written about 1884, is in a letter to an unidentified recipient. The text, identical with that in the copy to Higginson, is arranged as prose:

As if I asked a Common Alms and in my wondering Hand A stranger pressed a Kingdom, and I bewildered stand. As if I asked the Orient had it for me a Morn, And it should lift it's Purple Dikes, and shatter me with Dawn-

PUBLICATION: The letter to Higginson was first published in Atlantic Monthly, LXVIII (October 1891), 447, in an article which Higginson wrote dealing with the letters and poems he had received from ED. Although Mrs. Todd had the packet copy version, she never included it in any of the poetry collections. The letter to Higginson is also in Letters (ed. 1894), 304; (ed. 1931), 275; also LL (1924), 241.

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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 September 2, 1998