By Emily Dickinson
(1830 - 1886)
 
 
Life
 
 
LIFE

OUR share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.
 
Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,
Afterwards—day!
 
A BOOK

HE ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!
 
UTTERANCE

I FOUND the phrase to every thought
I ever had, but one;
And that defies me,—as a hand
Did try to chalk the sun
 
To races nurtured in the dark:—
How would your own begin?
Can blaze be done in cochineal,
Or noon in mazarin?
 
WITH FLOWERS

IF recollecting were forgetting,
  Then I remember not;
And if forgetting, recollecting,
  How near I had forgot!
And if to miss were merry,
  And if to mourn were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
  That gathered these to-day!
 
PARTING

MY life closed twice before its close;
  It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
  A third event to me,
 
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
  As these that twice befell:
Parting is all we know of heaven,
  And all we need of hell.
 
CALLED BACK

JUST lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!
 
Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!
 
Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.
 
Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal,—
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.
 
 
Love
 
 
CHOICE

OF all the souls that stand create
I have elected one.
When sense from spirit files away,
And subterfuge is done;
 
When that which is and that which was
Apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh
Is shifted like a sand;
 
When figures show their royal front
And mists are carved away,—
Behold the atom I preferred
To all the lists of clay!
 
CONSTANT

ALTER? When the hills do.
Falter? When the sun
Question if his glory
Be the perfect one.
 
Surfeit? When the daffodil
Doth of the dew:
Even as herself, O friend!
I will of you!
 
HEART, WE WILL FORGET HIM

HEART, we will forget him!
  You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
  I will forget the light.
 
When you have done, pray tell me,
  That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you ’re lagging,
  I may remember him!
 
 
Morning
 
 
WILL there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like water lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I ’ve never heard?
Oh some scholar, oh some sailor,
Oh some wise man from the skies,
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies.
 
 
Nature
 
 
THE WAKING YEAR

A LADY red upon the hill
  Her annual secret keeps;
A lady white within the field
  In placid lily sleeps!
 
The tidy breezes with their brooms
  Sweep vail, and hill, and tree!
Prithee, my pretty housewives!
  Who may expected be?
 
The neighbors do not yet suspect!
  The woods exchange a smile,—
Orchard, and buttercup, and bird,
  In such a little while!
 
And yet how still the landscape stands,
  How nonchalant the wood,
As if the resurrection
  Were nothing very odd!
 
AUTUMN

THE MORNS are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I ’ll put a trinket on.
 
BECLOUDED

THE SKY is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.
 
A narrow wind complains all day
How someone treated him:
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.
 
FRINGED GENTIAN

GOD made a little gentian;
It tried to be a rose
And failed, and all the summer laughed;
But just before the snows
There came a purple creature
That ravished all the hill;
And summer hid her forehead,
And mockery was still.
The frosts were her condition;
The Tyrian would not come
Until the North evoked it:—
“Creator! shall I bloom?”
 
 
Time and Eternity
 
 
TOO LATE

DELAYED till she had ceased to know,
Delayed till in its vest of snow
  Her loving bosom lay:
An hour behind the fleeting breath,
Later by just an hour than death,—
  Oh, lagging yesterday!
 
Could she have guessed that it would be;
Could but a crier of the glee
  Have climbed the distant hill;
Had not the bliss so slow a pace,—
Who knows but this surrendered face
  Were undefeated still?
 
Oh, if there may departing be
Any forgot by victory
  In her imperial round,
Show them this meek apparelled thing,
That could not stop to be a king,
  Doubtful if it be crowned!
 
CHARTLESS

I NEVER saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
 
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
 
THE BATTLE-FIELD

THEY dropped like flakes, they dropped like stars,
  Like petals from a rose,
When suddenly across the June
  A wind with finger goes.
 
They perished in the seamless grass,—
  No eye could find the place;
But God on his repealless list
  Can summon every face.
 
VANISHED

SHE died,—this was the way she died;
And when her breath was done,
Took up her simple wardrobe
And started for the sun.
 
Her little figure at the gate
The angels must have spied,
Since I could never find her
Upon the mortal side.
 
THAT SUCH HAVE DIED

THAT such have died enables us
  The tranquiller to die;
That such have lived, certificate
  For immortality.
 
THE SECRET

I HAVE not told my garden yet,
Lest that should conquer me;
I have not quite the strength now
To break it to the bee.
 
I will not name it in the street,
For shops would stare, that I,
So shy, so very ignorant,
Should have the face to die.
 
The hillsides must not know it,
Where I have rambled so,
Nor tell the loving forests
The day that I shall go,
 
Nor lisp it at the table,
Nor heedless by the way
Hint that within the riddle
One will walk to-day!
 
ETERNITY

ON this wondrous sea,
Sailing silently,
  Ho! pilot, ho!
Knowest thou the shore
Where no breakers roar,
  Where the storm is o’er?
 
In the silent west
Many sails at rest,
  Their anchors fast;
Thither I pilot thee,—
Land, ho! Eternity!
  Ashore at last!
 
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