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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)

I
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
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            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. 

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