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14 March 2012

I lost a World - the other day!


I lost a World - the other day!

Has Anybody found?

You'll know it by the Row of Stars

Around its forehead bound.



A Rich man – might not notice it – 

Yet – to my frugal Eye,

Of more Esteem than Ducats – 

Oh find it – Sir – for me!
                                                            - F209 (1861)  181

The poet seems to have lost something of value to her – perhaps a book with stars on its binding. Some books do indeed contain a world. Dickinson’s private library held many such books: the Bible and Shakespeare, of course; books of essays by Thoreau and Emerson; Paradise Lost by Milton; several books by Dickins, and various volumes of poetry – among many others.
Victorian era Bible
with fancy leather binding
            It’s not clear whom the narrator is addressing. I know if I lose a book I’ll call my husband in to look, so perhaps it was Dickinson’s father or brother. Or, to generalize from the poem,  just a sketch of human nature. We turn to books to discover new realms. When we lose them we call for help. I’m sure books were of much more importance when we didn’t have digital libraries, TV, movies, and computers to compete with them. 


UPDATE: I just reread my commentary and it is really lame. There's just not that much to say about this poem. If you have some good thoughts, please add them in Comments!

10 comments:

  1. Dear Susan!

    My interpretation is different.

    She is mother of a lost boy (Saturn). She asks passersby for help to finding him. Her boy’s feature is a headband (ring) around his forehead.

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  2. That's cool! I also like the idea that our earth itself is lost -- and the rich don't care. "Sir," in that case, would be appealing to the Deity to find it again for us.

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  3. Hi Susan,

    The 'World' might be an ideal, or a wish or desire which was somehow lost along the way because the poet realized it couldn't be obtained.
    The 'Row of Stars' might refer to the fact that it was something truly desired although many would have deemed it trivial.
    She is ready to take it back though should it be returned to her.

    Thanks for your excellent blog !!

    Edda

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  5. Hey Susan. kudos on this amazing blog! Your commentary isn't that lame but according to me, she refers to her precious dog 'Carlo,' which was gifted by her Father. A pet can mean a 'World' to someone and they often get lost. She is probably asking her Father ('Sir') to find it for her. However the 'Row of stars around forehead bound' part stumps me.

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  6. My 2 cents.

    The head of Liberty depicted on copper one-cent and half-cent coins during the first half of the 19th century was surrounded by 13 stars, for the original colonies. Ducats, on the other hand, minted in silver or gold were worth one or two American dollars in the 1850's.

    The speaker lost a penny which a rich man may not notice but to the speaker's "Frugal eye" it held more esteem than ducats. Now, the six million dollar question: What does the penny symbolize? What does she mean by losing a world? Clearly the answer the is something more important to her than monetary value (Ducats). Yet it is also something that the rich man might not notice. I think he would notice his dog missing. He might even notice a book that he valued. The "frugal eye" could be similar to the "discerning eye", one that finds value in that which others find mundane or worthless--a thought, a memory, an hour wasted, a missed opportunity, a poem. Sir, could refer to God whom she is making her plea.

    The opening line of losing a world which many would associate with a person is contrasted with that a very small valued coin depicting a person, the face of liberty. The second stanza is what baffles the mind. "A Rich man-might not notice it" seems to rule out a person.

    Whatever this world is, only a very frugal eye would find valuable. I keep coming back to those things that money can't buy like time or perhaps some form of liberty or beauty unnoticed by many.

    What stands out most in my mind besides the first line is the image of "the Row of Stars Around its forehead bound." This is the clue to unlocking the poem as Dickinson tells us "how we will know it". Besides the literal coin, it certainly reminds us of the diadems and crowns she often writes about.

    I thought I could be more help, but this is a tough one to pin down. Slant for sure!



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    1. I am really taken by the penny idea. I looked up an image of the penny you describe and the stars do indeed go around the forehead of the coin. It also makes sense with the contrast to the ducats. Dickinson may well have had a lucky penny, or one that was a keepsake from a dear one -- and it might have meant the world to her. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. The more I think about this, I thinking of a small trinket that the speaker misplaced, something not worth very much but had sentimental value and represented a world to the owner. Perhaps it was something related to someone who passed that the speaker held dearly, someone that she likened to the image of the lady on the coin with stars around her forehead.

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  8. Perhaps Dickinson is the first to suggest a 'world complete' and the loss of one element compromises the whole. I think she was ahead of her time in many respects.

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