poems from dickinson to ned dickinson

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1407

MANUSCRIPTS: The fair copy reproduced above (H B 85) is incorporated in a letter that ED wrote to her nephew Ned in March 1877, while he was convalescing from an illness; she enclosed with it the first maple sugar of the season, and titled the poem "A Portrait of the Parish." The worksheet draft (Bingham 100-1) from which the fair copy derives suggests several alternative readings:

A Field of Stubble - lying sere
Beneath the second sun
It's toils to Brindled People tost
It's triumphs - to the Bin.

Accosted by a timid Bird
Irresolute of Alms -
Is often seen - but seldom felt
On our New England Farms -

3. toils] corn -
3. People] nations
3. tost] cast - / thrust
4. triumphs] Pumpkins to -
5] With usually a sober Bird - / [With] generally [a sober Bird -]
6] Revisiting for Alms -

Line 7 is marked for an alternate reading, but none is given. In the fair copy ED adopted only "thrust." On the same sheets with this draft are rough drafts of "How much the present moment means" and (on the verso) "Of his [their] peculiar light."

PUBLICATION: FF (1932), 257-258 - the letter to Ned. Two words in the poem are altered:

3. Brindled] brindle
4. Triumphs] triumph

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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 15, 1999