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18 November 2011

Tho' my destiny be Fustian –

Tho' my destiny be Fustian – 
Hers be damask fine – 
Tho' she wear a silver apron – 
I, a less divine – 

Still, my little Gypsy being
I would far prefer,
Still, my little sunburnt bosom
To her Rosier,

For, when Frosts, their punctual fingers
On her forehead lay,
You and I, and Dr. Holland,
Bloom Eternally!

Roses of a steadfast summer
In a steadfast land,
Where no Autumn lifts her pencil – 
And no Reapers stand!
                                                       - F131 (1860)  163

This seems to be Emily being a bit catty. The subject is unknown, but is a woman who wears beautiful fabrics and a “silver apron” and has a lovely rosy bosom. The poet contrasts this to her “Fustian” or coarse-cloth clothes, her outdoorsy tan (not fashionable in that day), and her “little Gypsy being” that implies her more carefree and original nature compared to the conventional lady. The poem is obviously intended for her dear friends Elizabeth and Josiah Holland. Dr. Holland, himself a poet, was an editor for The Springfield Republican newspaper.
            In the third and fourth stanzas Emily includes her friends with her as having enduring qualities, probably literary. I imagine the object of mild scorn here was a poet, perhaps a society lady who gave a poetry reading the Hollands and the Dickinsons attended (and I’m just speculating). While her verse will die when the “punctual fingers” of deathly frost extinguish her, the poetry of Dickinson and Holland (she probably includes Elizabeth out of courtesy) will endure, indeed “Bloom Eternally!” In fact they will be “Roses” constantly in summer bloom as opposed to an Autumn poet who is sure to perish by winter. 

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