poems sent from dickinson to frances and louise norcross

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1261

MANUSCRIPT: About 1873 (Bingham 103-2). The extant copy is a penciled worksheet. ED first wrote line 6: "And we inhale Despair." She crossed out "And," substituting "may" (underlined to certify her decision) after "We," to make the line read as given above.

PUBLICATION: The first stanza is in a letter to the Norcross cousins: Letters (1894), 277; (1931), 252; also LL (1924), 288. It offers a variant reading for line 1, and adopts both suggested changes:

A word left careless on a page
May consecrate an eye,
When folded in perpetual seam
The wrinkled author lie.

The worksheet is the source for the two stanzas (the second here first published) in New England Quarterly, XX (1947), 15. The suggested change for line 4 is adopted.

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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 December 15, 1998