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08 March 2012

Come slowly—Eden!


Come slowly—Eden!
Lips unused to Thee—
Bashful—sip thy Jessamines—
As the fainting Bee—

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums—
Counts his nectars—
Enters—and is lost in Balms.
                                                            - F205 (1861)  211

Too much paradise too soon would be just … too much. It is not to rushed at and inhaled, nor is it to be wished that we are swooped up to heaven instantaneously. What should be bliss might turn instead to oversatiety or even fearful incomprehension.
            The poem’s tone is solemn and slow, opening with a spondee – Come slowly­ – and using long vowel sounds to stretch the line out: slowly, Eden. The second line continues the long sounds with “unused” and “Thee.” A nice rhyme of “Thee” with “Bee,” again with the long sounds,” imparts a prayerful, hymn-like quality to the stanza.
            The stanza is also quite visual. We see a bashful person – a pilgrim or someone on death’s door, or someone in ecstatic trance – verging on Eden. The vision is so intense and desirable that the pilgrim only sips bashfully at the heavenly nectar – the sweet “Jessamines” with their fragrant balm, or nectar. We are used to ordinary life, so is it any wonder that Eden might be overpowering? We then see the Bee, weak and “fainting,” and then the stanza breaks, which serves again to postpone pleasure just as the pleasure of Eden must be sipped.
Bee about to lose itself in the balm of a jasmine
(photo courtesy of Dev Wijewardane)
            The second stanza is perhaps even more visual as we see the Bee finally reaching the flower he was seeking. He doesn’t dive right in, though, even weak as he is. Instead he “hums” “Round her chamber,” taking it in and counting “his nectars” before he enters. Notice how feminine and sexualized the imagery is. The final line, in particular, where the bee “Enters – and is lost in Balms.” It’s a beautiful line and the dash gives us that hushed break as the bee enters the flowers chambers to be lost in the nourshing nectar that he so needs and desires.
  Dickinson even juxtaposes two feminine slant rhymes, “nectars – / Enters,” to subtly accentuate the ebb and flow of male and female, desire and fulfillment, thirst and blissful satiety.  I like that Dickinson’s Eden is so deeply female and that spiritual bliss is presented as an entering into and drinking of the nectar of that divine Feminine

4 comments:

  1. Susan, you can use the image on the blog. my only request is a reference and a link back to my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The second stanza could very well be much more graphic as we see the actual Bee finally attaining your flower they had been searching for.
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  3. Is it just me, or is there a sexual metaphor going on here? The first stanza from the point of view virgin female unused to sex asking to go slowly. The bashful lips sipping from the passion flower.

    The second stanza is from the point of view of the male bee who is a bit tardy coming to his love, enters her chamber and is lost in balms (aromatic sap or juice..that which heals).

    A longed for consummation of love is like entering paradise!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, very sexual indeed. I love the delicious sensuality of this poem. However, it might be also said that Dickinson is using a sexual metaphor for a transcendent relationship -- as if becoming deeply intimate with someone, nonsexually, is like both sexual consummation as well as the bees blissful entrance into the balms of the fragrant jasmine.

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