poems sent from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 365

MANUSCRIPTS: There are two, both written about 1862. The fair copy reproduced above (Bingham 98-4B-7) is a redaction of the semifinal draft in packet 13 (H 63b) below. It adopts all the suggested changes and presents a variant in line 9: boasts] has

Dare you see a soul at the "White Heat?"
Then crouch within the door-
Red-is the Fire's common tint-
But when the quickened Ore

Has sated Flame's conditions-
She quivers from the Forge
Without a color, but the Light
Of unannointed Blaze-

Least Village, boasts it's Blacksmith-
Whose Anvil's even ring
Stands symbol for the finer Forge
That soundless tugs-within-

Refining these impatient Ores
With Hammer, and with Blaze
Until the designated Light
Repudiate the Forge-

4. quickened] vivid
5. sated] vanquished
6. She] It

A second fair copy, now missing, is listed by T. W. Higginson as one of the poems that ED had sent to him. His list was enclosed in a letter he wrote Mrs. Todd on 13 May 1891 (AB, 129) to tell her exactly which poems he had in the event she lacked a copy and needed one in order to prepare the text of the Second Series of Poems on which they were then working. It is unlikely that the fair copy reproduced above was Higginson's. The list he enclosed specifically notes that she already has a copy, presumably the packet copy, which is the source of the published text in Poems.

PUBLICATION: The poem, titled "The White Heat," was first published in Atlantic Monthly, LXVIII (October 1891), 454, incorporated in an article which Higginson wrote dealing with the letters and poems that he had received from ED. Unless the copy she sent him is found, it will be impossible to know certainly whether his copy was the source of the text. Oddly, it probably was not, for the version in the Atlantic is identical in text and form with that in Poems (1891), 28, titled "The White Heat." This version, published later in the same year, almost certainly derives from the packet copy. It is arranged as four quatrains and adopts only the suggested change for line 4. There are two alterations, both made to effect rhymes:

6] Its quivering substance plays
10. ring] din

Writing to Col. Higginson on 13 July 1891, Mrs. Todd says (AB, 137):

I suppose you will not wish to change the line in the "White Heat" Ñonly as she makes blaze and forge as rhymes in the last stanza, I thought it might be good not to have them in that relation twice. Few changes seem necessary anywhere.

Higginson evidently approved, for the changes were made in his article as well as in the collected edition of Poems.

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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