By Chivalries as tiny,
A Blossom, or a Book,
The seeds of smiles are planted –
Which blossom in the dark.
- F 37 (1858)
Haven't we all had the lovely feeling of lying in bed thinking of a little gift or thoughtful gesture from a special someone? One hopes at such times that the little gift was meant to imply some special feelings or relationship, and thus the Blossom blossoms.
By use of the word "Chivalries" we are led to think of the gifts as coming from a man. But the poet can't effuse to the giver. Instead she accepts the gift – -perhaps it is given to her by another hand or through the post – and only allows the smile to bloom when she is alone at night in her room.
Both flowers and books are fraught with meaning. Victorians had a whole language of flowers, so whether the blossom were a daisy or a rose or a common dandelion, the recipient would know the intended meaning. Likewise, a book of romantic verse or a handbook of exotic garden plants would each communicate something unique. The 'Chivalries', therefore, while symbolic are hardly 'tiny'.
I like the idea of planting the seeds of smiles. I'm reminded that often a thoughtful gesture isn't responded to--not overtly, anyway. But perhaps the seed of a smile has been planted, and knowing that is quite good enough.
Now that I say that, I'm reminded that Dickinson herself was a giver of such gifts. She famously enclosed flowers in letters, and often sent baskets to those in need of cheer. Perhaps this poem was also her insight into the value of her 'tiny' gifts.