poems sent from dickinson to higginson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 67

MANUSCRIPTS: There are three autograph copies. That in packet 83 (Bingham I6C), reproduced above, was written in 1859. The penciled copy to Sue (H B 189), written at the same time, is identical in text with the packet copy. In form it is without stanza division, lines 7 and 8 are one, "flag" (line 6) is not capitalized, and a period concludes the last line. The copy to T. W. Higginson (BPL Higg 11) was one of four poems enclosed in a letter (BPL Higg 54) written in July 1862. Its text is identical with that of the other two copies, but the form varies somewhat:

Success-is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed-
To Comprehend a Nectar-
Requires sorest need-
Not one of all the Purple Host
Who took the Flag - today -
Can tell the Definition-so clear - of Victory-
As He - defeated - dying -
On whose forbidden ear-
The distant strains of Triumph
Burst - agonized - and Clear!

PUBLICATION: The story of how ED allowed Helen Hunt Jackson to include this poem in A Masque of Poets (1878) is set forth in detail in the introduction, pages xxx-xxxiii. The volume was issued by Roberts Brothers, and the editor, Thomas Niles, acknowledged to ED that he had made some editorial alterations. He had in fact made six.

2. who] that
3. a nectar] the nectar
4. sorest] the sorest
7. clear] plain
12] Break, agonizing clear

When the poem was collected in Poems (1890), 13, it was printed as three quatrains and all the alterations made by Niles were corrected except one:

12. Burst] Break Since the text in Poems presumably derives either from the packet copy or the copy to Higginson, and since all three extant copies are identical in text, one infers that "Break" is an editorial substitution.

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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 February 21, 2000