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13 September 2011

We should not mind so small a flower—

We should not mind so small a flower—
Except it quiet bring
Our little garden that we lost
Back to the Lawn again.

So spicy her Carnations nod—
So drunken, reel her Bees—
So silver steal a hundred flutes
From out a hundred trees—

That whoso sees this little flower
By faith may clear behold
The Bobolinks around the throne
And Dandelions gold.
                                                                                - F 82 (1859)

n autumn our thoughts turn to winter. There is bit of melancholy in the air as Nature retrenches. Dickinson views this and other seasons as representations of life itself. Spring brings Resurrection after the Death represented by winter. Autumn, then, is a time of preparation.
New England Gentian
Viridian's Blog:
            Enter the gentian (or some other small, late-blooming flower; Judith Farr in her lovely book The Gardens of Emily Dickinson argues it is the gentian). Instead of helping us look forward to death and resurrection, it reminds us of Summer’s heyday. Small it may be, but the flower has a delicious spicy fragrance and its nectar inebriates the hungry bees.
            However, the poet reminds us that this very abundance can help spark our visions of Heaven. The vision Dickinson sketches for us is likewise simple and homely: Bobolinks and dandelions will ornament God’s throne.

Bobolink, Barry Kent MacKay

            Written in standard hymn form (4-line quatrains in alternate tetrameter and trimeter lines), the poem is bracketed by two references to the flower: the first, ending line one is “so small a flower,” and the second ends the first line of the last stanza: “this little flower.” The first stanza is about loss—the lost Garden, with its echoes of Eden, while the last stanza is about entering the eternal garden of Paradise. 


  1. A lovely poem, but I do not understand the allusion to flutes and trees. Do you think it is the wind blowing through trees bereft of leaves?

    1. I'd venture it is birdsong -- along with summer's floral bounty come the birds with their silvery songs. The speaker is recalling the summer lawn garden with its carnations and bees -- and birds in the trees.

  2. On June 12, 1859, a hard frost froze plowed soil a half inch deep and killed all the annuals that ED had so carefully planted that spring (“our little garden that we lost”). Only perennials with mulched roots (e.g., carnations and fringed gentians) would be able to recover and bloom before summer’s end. But when they bloomed, they bloomed big time, and the bees went crazy. In September silver samaras of the sugar maples covered the ground and reminded ED that if she sees the gentian blooming and maple seeds spiraling down in September, she can be sure that golden dandelions and gorgeous Bobolinks will appear in her yard (her throne) next spring.

    For me, there is nothing in this poem about resurrection after death or God’s throne.

    1. Dickinson's woods and gardens inspired many of her poems about faith and life. I believe this is one. The bobolink and dandelion may be missing in the meadow come fall, but faith helps us to visualize the missing around the 'throne' -- and what other throne could she be picturing than the throne of God?

    2. We all have interpretations of ED's poems, and none of them is wrong. Reading the last two lines of this poem, "The Bobolinks around the throne / And Dandelions gold", she is saying to me, as I said above, her garden and her yard is her throne. I infer she seeks no other. Other folks see things differently, and that is one pleasure of reading The Prowling Bee.