Are not fair as this—
Syllables of Velvet—
Sentences of Plush,
Depths of Ruby, undrained,
Hid, Lip, for Thee—
Play it were a Humming Bird—
F380 (1862) 334
|Velvety and alluring rose|
Red roses are—and were then—symbols of love and passion. Judith Farr (The Gardens of Emily Dickinson) says these deep ruby roses were the old “Deep Cup” roses—“extremely alluring in color and fragrance.” Their texture, by Dickinson’s lines alone, must have been (are?) “Plush” and velvety.
The line “Hid, Lip, for Thee—” is a bit difficult. I read it as follows: the ruby rose is “undrained” because the poet did not drink it herself—did not inhale its odor—but saved it for the recipient, Mrs. Flynt. The lip of the rose was shyly hiding “for Thee.” Strictly speaking, a flower’s lip (labellum—yes, the same Latin word from which we get “labia”) is part of an orchid rather than a rose. It is the beautiful landing-platform petal that attracts pollinators. The beautiful rose, then, is virginal and pure—and alluring.
If that sounds a bit sexual, so does the last part. Dickinson suggests that Flynt play with the rose as if she were a hummingbird sipping (again the cross-sensory imagery of drinking/sipping for smelling/inhaling) the rose. Except that Dickinson writes “me” rather than “rose”! I suppose this might be construed as Flynt should smell the rose as a hummingbird might sip from it, and imagine that she is giving her cousin a kiss. It’s that lip/labellum part that might have given Flynt pause—and caused her to write a bit excitedly in her diary: “Had a letter from Emily Dickinson!!!!”
|Alluring lip (labellum) of an orchid|