poems from dickinson to thomas niles

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 829

MANUSCRIPTS: There are four fair copies, identical in text but written in different years. The latest copy (Bingham), reproduced above, was enclosed in a letter to Thomas Niles, written in April 1883. ED titled the poem, in her letter, "Country Burial."

The earliest copy is that in packet 92 (Bingham 79d), written in 1864:

Ample make this Bed
Make this Bed with Awe
In it wait till Judgment break
Excellent and Fair

Be it's Mattrass straight
Be it's Pillow round
Let no Sunrise' Yellow noise
Interrupt this Ground.

The second copy (Bingham), in pencil, was written about 1864 and sent to an unidentified recipient. Its form is that of the packet copy except that dashes conclude lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 6; commas follow "it" (line 3) and "Excellent" (line 4); and "break" (line 3) is capitalized.

The third copy (BPL Higg 18) was one of four poems enclosed in a letter (BPL Higg 60) to T. W. Higginson, postmarked 9 June 1866:

Ample make this Bed-
Make this Bed with Awe-
In it wait till Judgment- Break
Excellent and Fair.

Be it's Mattrass straight
Be it's Pillow round-
Let no Sunrise' yellow Noise
Interrupt this Ground

By 1883, when ED sent the fourth copy to Niles, she evidently considered her spelling mattrass archaic.

PUBLICATION: Poems (1891),207, titled "A Country Burial."

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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