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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…

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