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18 July 2011

To lose – if one can find again –

To lose – if one can find again – 
To miss – if one shall meet – 
The Burglar cannot rob – then – 
The Broker cannot cheat.
So build the hillocks gaily
Thou little spade of mine
Leaving nooks for Daisy
And for Columbine – 
You and I the secret
Of the Crocus know – 
Let us chant it softly – 
"There is no more snow!"
                                                                   - F 30 (1858)


In the New Testament's Matthew 6:20, just after teaching the Lord's Prayer, Jesus instructs his listeners to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Dickinson reframes this from treasure to terms of loss and separation. To lose your life means to find an eternal one. To miss a loved one on earth is only too meet again in Paradise. Part of this Paradise is that you won't be robbed by burglars -- and the other part is you won't be robbed by brokers either! With that in mind we can shovel those graves with gaiety, making sure we allow the flowers to take root there. 
     The secret of resurrection is the same secret of the Crocus which emerges from its bulb each year, the same plant born again. This is possible because there isn't snow underground to damage the bulb. Neither will we, once in the grave, know the 'snow' of earthly tribulations again.
     The poem has a secretive aspect to it. It poses a riddle in the first two lines and later mentions a secret. But the secret is itself oblique: "There is no more snow!" "There" is italicized to help the reader know it refers to a place--under the 'hillocks' – graves. There is a slight edge to this otherwise anodyne ending: the poet, addressing the Columbine and Daisy says, "Let us chant it softly–" Why? Why softly? Why chanted? One pictures a lady among flowers tending a grave, softly repeating her line over and over as if to chant it would make it more likely true. 

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