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08 July 2011

The Gentian weaves her fringes—

The Gentian weaves her fringes—
The Maple's loom is red—
My departing blossoms
          Obviate parade.

A brief, but patient illness –
An hour to prepare,
And one below, this morning
Is where the angels are  
It was a short procession,
The Bobolink was there 
An aged Bee addressed us 
And then we knelt in prayer 
We trust that she was willing 
We ask that we may be.
Summer – Sister – Seraph!
Let us go with thee!

In the name of the Bee 
And of the Butterfly –
And of the Breeze – Amen!
                                                                J18, Fr 21 (1858)


* Note: Franklin includes only the first stanza in Fr21.  He places the remainder of the poem in Fr22 and Fr23, breaking those two after "Let us go with thee!" I include these two versions and discussions of them separately.

Autumn colors blaze: the purple blue of the fringed gentian--which blooms its farewell to summer in September or even early November, the red and orange hues of the maple trees... It's a natural eye-pleasing parade before the leaves and blooms drop from the oncoming cold.
     But the poet's garden, and here we assume Dickinson is speaking of her own garden, is fading. The flowers are fading, plants turning brown. These 'obviate' parade--in other words, make a parade unnecessary.
     Apparently Dickinson had William Cullen Bryant's poem "To the Fringed Gentian" marked in a book of poetry. This is the penultimate stanza:


   Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
    Look through its fringes to the sky,
    Blue—blue—as if that sky let fall
    A flower from its cerulean wall.



I prefer Dickinson's gentians that weave into the Maple's red loom to Bryant's whose dainty little plants look through their lashes at the blue sky that matches their own cerulean tint.
     I also like how  Dickinson sketches a very visual picture contrasting the woods outside her gate to her own garden enclosed within.

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