poems sent from dickinson to frances and louise norcross

Thomas Johnson's Note on Poem 1604

MANUSCRIPT: About 1884 (Bingham 97-15). It is incorporated in a note that says:

A Tone from the old Bells, perhaps might wake the Children -

and is signed "Emily. with love -."

PUBLICATION: It is published among the letters to the Norcross cousins, arranged as an eight-line stanza. In Letters (ed. 1894), 277 - and in LL (1924), 288, which derives from the 1894 text - lines 5 and 7 are variants:

We make the sage decision still
The only time to dam the sea

In Letters (ed. 1931), 252-253, the text remains as in the 1894 edition but footnotes suggest two alternative readings:

5. sage] wise
7. only] sagest

One conjectures that the 1894 edition reproduced the poem in the letter to the Norcross cousins as it there was written; and that when Mrs. Todd was preparing the 1931 edition, she compared the published text with the manuscript of the letter and poem. Seeing that the latter was a variant, she entered two of the three variants in a footnote in the new edition. ED evidently had made two fair copies of her letter, one of which she sent.

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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 5, 1998