Could — I do more — for Thee —
Wert Thou a Bumble Bee —
Since for the Queen, have I —
Nought but Bouquet?
F443 (1862) J447
Ah, if only you were a bumble bee I might be able to make you happy. I don’t have much, but at least I have a bouquet of flowers. That should make a bee buzz! There’s a bit of a sexy tease here. Dickinson wrote several poems where the bee is a lover seeking the nectar of his flower (e.g., F205). The dashes give the poem, particularly the first line, a rather breathy quality.
Even the word “Bouquet” has a coquettishness to it. There is the bridal bouquet, of course, but also the second meaning of the word – that of fragrance. The would-be-lover poet is presenting herself as alluring, enticing the bee with her fragrant nectar.
I do read this poem, however, as a cover note for flowers intended for a man’s wife. Let’s say that she sent this to Samuel Bowle’s along with a bouquet intended for his wife Mary. Dickinson did in fact write over fifty letters to Mary although her heart was all for Samuel. I doubt if he missed the message. I doubt if Mary did, if she read it.