Search This Blog

25 April 2012

God permits industrious Angels –

God permits industrious Angels  –
Afternoons  –  to play  –
I met one  –  forgot my schoolmates  –
All  –  for Him  –  straightway  –

God calls home  –  the Angels  –  promptly  –
At the Setting Sun  –
I missed mine  –  how dreary  –  Marbles  –
After playing Crown!
                                                            F245 (1861)  231

Game of marbles from around the time of
this poem, by Christian Schussele
God is very  much a strict father in this poem. If his angels work hard he allows them a bit of play in the afternoon. Interestingly, the angels – or at least one angel – play with human children. Dickinson claims, rather audaciously, that she met an angel herself one day. Naturally she “forgot” her schoolmates for the opportunity of playing with an angel. Nowadays we’d be a bit suspicious if our little girl came home and said an Angel had dropped by the school at recess or after school and she’d played with him. But those were simpler times.
            God doesn’t leave the Angels too much free time, however. At sunset they must go home – “promptly”!
            Playtime just wasn’t the same anymore for the young poet. She missed the angel (whom she claims as “mine”) and, sadly, playing marbles with the other children just wasn’t the same anymore. In fact, it was “dreary.”  What did she play with the angel, if not marbles? Why, “Crown,” of course. Did the angel have a crown in his pocket to entice the little girl to play?  Or perhaps it was the sailor’s gambling dice game, “Crown and Anchor,” and the angel took the little girl’s penny candy money.
            At any rate, Dickinson wrote several poems where in the after life common folks will wear crowns. Perhaps it all started back in her youth…


  1. I wonder if this is ED saying how conversing with herself is more interesting to her intellect than her surrounding aquintenses, and she is beginning to lose interest in their company. She has no peers, and withdrawal looms ahead? Too far fetched?

  2. ED's angel was "Benjamin Franklin Newton (1821-1853)

    “My earliest friend wrote me the week before he died “If I live, I will go to Amherst – if I die, I certainly will.”

    – Emily Dickinson to T.W. Higginson, spring 1876 (L457)

    "My earliest friend,” “My dying Tutor” (L265), “my Father’s Law Student” (L750), “The first of my own friends” (L110), “a gentle, yet grave Preceptor” (L153) “an elder brother, loved indeed very much” (L153) – these were all phrases Emily Dickinson employed in speaking of Benjamin Franklin Newton, a young man whose effect upon her development as a poet was early and profound, and to whom she long paid tribute.

    "Newton, as she called him, came to Amherst in the fall of 1847 [when ED was 16], a twenty-six-year-old aspiring law student desiring to study for two years in the recently formed partnership office of Dickinson and Bowdoin. Like other such law students of Edward Dickinson’s over the years, Newton became a familiar presence in the Dickinson household, befriending the Dickinson children and often partaking of family meals. Emily Dickinson met him just as she enrolled in Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, and she became acquainted with his love of books during several weeks the following March that she was home nursing a severe cold. She later wrote: “Mr. Newton became to me a gentle, yet grave Preceptor, teaching me what to read, what authors to admire, what was most grand or beautiful in nature, and that sublimer lesson, a faith in things unseen” (L153)."

    Newton departed Amherst autumn 1849, presenting ED a beautifully bound first edition of ‘Poems’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson as a parting gift. He died March 1853 of tuberculosis.