poems sent from dickinson to frances and louise norcross

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1263

MANUSCRIPT: About 1873 (Bingham 97-6). It is a penciled worksheet draft jotted down on two small scraps of paper. On the torn flap of an envelope (Bingham 98-4A-9) is a trial beginning:

Was never Frigate like

PUBLICATION: The poem was first published in Letters (1894), 273, incorporated in a letter to the Norcross cousins, said to have been written in the autumn of 1873. The letter presumably has been destroyed but the poem as it there stands probably represents the fair copy derived from the worksheet draft:

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take,
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul!

The suggested changes for lines 5 and 6 have been adopted. It was next issued in Poems (1896), 29, titled "A Book," where the text is arranged as two quatrains and one word is changed:

8. the] a

In the two transcripts made by Mrs. Todd the text is that of the version to the Norcrosses; there is no known authority for the alteration in line 8. The text of the version in Poems (1896) has been printed in all subsequent collections of the Poems; that to the Norcrosses is in Letters (ed. 1931), 249, but is omitted from LL.

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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