poems sent from dickinson to elizabeth holland

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1265

MANUSCRIPTS: The copy reproduced above (H H 30) is incorporated in a letter to Mrs. J. G. Holland, written in early summer 1873. The worksheet draft (Bingham 103-13), written in pencil at the same time, shows a twelve-line arrangement:

The most triumphant Bird
I ever knew or met
Embarked upon a Twig Today
And till Dominion set
I perish to behold
Another such a might
And sang for nothing in the World
But competent Delight -
Retired and resumed
His transitive estate
To what delicious accident
Does finest Glory fit -

6] So delicate a might / So adequate / So competent a sight
7. in the World] scrutable
8. competent] absolute / impudent

A third copy, now lost, was incorporated in a letter to the Norcross cousins and was written about the same time. As published, it shows the twelve-line arrangement of the worksheet draft. Reckoning lines from the worksheet, one observes that the text of lines 1-4, 9-12 is identical in all three versions. The variants occur in lines 5-8, which in the Norcross version read:

I perish to behold
So competent a sight -
And sang for nothing scrutable
But impudent delight.

This version adopts changes suggested in the worksheet for lines 6, 7, 8. The copy to Mrs. Holland creates variants in lines 5, 6, 8 which are not elsewhere suggested.

PUBLICATION: The letter to Mrs. Holland is in LH (1951), 92-93. The letter to the Norcrosses is in Letters (ed. 1894), 278; (ed. 1931), 253; also LL (1924), 290. In the 1931 edition "competent" is cued in a note as an alternate for "impudent" (line 8). No such note appears in the 1894 edition, which was prepared by Mrs. Todd from a transcript of the letter supplied by Fanny Norcross. The alternate in the 1931 edition probably derives from the worksheet draft.

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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 January 19, 1999