That fading from your Vase—
You—unsuspecting—feel for me—
- F 80 (1859)
Dickinson’s skill at compression is employed brilliantly here. The first line sketches a division between the speaker’s private, true self and outer, public self. The inner person has agency and can reveal or hide herself at will—in this case choosing to hide within the outer . The feminine petals and sweet scent disguise the presence of the real speaker within.
Then we have the image of the Vase—another feminine image (at least certainly in Freudian terms). It holds and surrounds cut flowers to showcase their beauty. This, however, necessitates the flowers’ severance from life-giving soil and their consequent ‘fading’.
The subject of the poem, the ‘You’, knows that flowers fade and will be tossed out, but she doesn’t know there is a real consciousness hidden there that will be tossed out as well. Yet subconsciously she will become aware of an alteration, a withdrawing of the speaker, and feels ‘Almost – a loneliness –’. That ‘Almost’ is a heartbreaker.
What I find most intriguing about this short poem is the expressed intent of the speaker: “I will withdraw myself from you, leaving only my persona, a shell that fades, so that while you won’t suspect anything you will, at a deeper level, feel the loss.” It is as if the speaker had been shunned in some way by the subject and will quietly effect her small retribution, the almost-loneliness of the subject. The speaker, hiding within the flower, will be watching. It is what today we might call a passive-aggressive choice: to fade—wither, lose vitality and reality—rather than make a more direct confrontation or leaving.