poems sent from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 324

MANUSCRIPTS: Two fair copies are extant, identical in text. Two others, now lost, are discussed below. The copy reproduced above (BPL Higg 10) was enclosed with three other poems in a letter to T. W. Higginson (BPL Higg 54), written in July 1862, in which she tells him that she is happy to be his "scholar": "If you truly consent, I recite, now-" (Letters, ed. 1931, 276). The poem was written not later than 1860, in which year it was incorporated in packet 15 (H 84e):

Some-keep the Sabbath-going to church-
I - keep it - staying at Home -
With a Bobolink-for a Chorister-
And sn Orchard - for a Dome -

Some- keep the Sabbath, in Surplice -
I- just wear my wings.
And instead of tolling the bell, for church-
Our little Sexton - sings.

"God" - preaches - a noted Clergyman -
And the sermon is never long,
So-instead of getting to Heaven-at last-
I'm - going - all along!

One of the lost copies was sent to Gordon L. Ford. His wife, Emily Fowler Ford, a girlhood friend of ED's, is quoted as saying:

The first poem I ever read was the robin chorister . . . which she gave my husband years ago. (Letters, ed. 1931,132.)

Presumably the other lost copy was sent to some member of the Sweetser family and was the source of the version published in 1864.

PUBLICATION: The fifth of seven poems known to have been published in ED's lifetime, this poem appeared on 12 March 1864 in The Round Table (I, 195), a weekly review and record published in New York by ED's cousin by marriage, Henry E. Sweetser, and his cousin, Charles H. Sweetser. It is unsigned and is titled "My Sabbath." It is possible that ED herself supplied the title, as she frequently did when she sent poems to friends. But whether she sent it with the intent that it should be published, or whether it appeared without her knowledge, is not known. In this text one word differs:

11. getting] going

It probably is a variant reading; it could be an editorial alteration. It was first collected in Poems (1890), 74, titled "A Service of Song," where it follows the text of the packet copy.

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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