poems sent from dickinson to elizabeth holland

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1568

MANUSCRIPTS: The copy reproduced above (H H 76) concludes a letter written to Mrs. J. G. Holland about March 1883. Mrs. Holland had sent ED photographs of three young members of her family - her son and her two sons-in-law. ED's reply introduces the poem by saying:

May I present your Portrait to your Sons in Law?

A variant fair copy (Bingham 106-48), written at the same time, ED incorporated in a note written to an unidentified recipient:

To see her is a Picture -
To hear her is a Tune -
To know her, a disparagement of every other Boon -
To know her not, affliction
To own her for a Friend
A warmth as near as if the Sun
Were shining in your Hand -

The worksheet draft (Bingham 106-51) from which both variant fair copies derive also survives. It is in handwriting of the same period:

To see her is a Picture -
To hear her is a Tune
To know her an intemperance as innocent as June -
            embarrassment   dangerous
                           gracious as a Boon
                  A disapragement of every other Boon -
To know her not Affliction
To own her for a Friend
A Glee as sweet as if the stars
   Peace   pure         sky
   warmth   sure         sun
Were shining in your Hand -
                  one's -

Perhaps ED sent a copy, now lost, to Sue, for a third variant survives in a transcript made by Sue (H ST 23c):

To see her is a picture
To hear [her] is a Tune
To know her an intemperance
As innocent as June
By which to be undone
Is dearer than Redemption -
Which never to receive
Makes mockery of melody
It might have been to live

The four final lines are not suggested in the worksheet draft, nor is line 5, which sounds very much like an alternative reading for line 4, as Mrs. Bingham conjectures in New England Quarterly, XX (1947), 49. ED never sent rough or semifinal drafts to her friends. Whence the transcript is not clear.

PUBLICATION: The copy to Mrs. Holland is in LH (1951), 172. The text in AB (1945), 378, arranged as two quatrains, derives from the letter to the unknown recipient. The text is New England Quarterly (cited above) is one contrived from the worksheet draft. The text in SH (1914), 137, follows the transcript made by Sue, but whether it derives from the transcript or from a holograph cannot be determined unless the holograph is recovered.

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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 March 2, 2000