Has made the Toilette cool
Of only Taste we cared to please
Is difficult, and still —
That's easier — than Braid the Hair —
And make the Bodice gay —
When eyes that fondled it are wrenched
By Decalogues — away —
F471 (1862) J485
There's no point getting all dolled up once you're in the grave. There's nothing going on (unless you're chatting with Truth through the walls of a crypt), and dressing up just to please yourself can become a real hassle. Still, it would be preferable to fixing yourself up when your lover has been "wrenched" away by one of the Ten Commandments – no doubt number seven: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
That's how I read this poem, anyway. Although it's awfully clever, it doesn't seem particularly relevant except out of biographical interest. Was Dickinson saying that some object of her own desire, probably a married man, had been fondling her Bodice (let's admit it, bosom) with his eyes? I think this little poem was written as a letter – a very droll and sophisticated one! And it need not have been meant for anyone in particular. I think Dickinson imagined herself in all kinds of guises, identities, predicaments, triumphs and affaires de couer.
Speaking of imagination, I hope neither of the dresses pictured below represent Dickinson's best efforts in what she referred to as "mak[ing] the Bodice gay."
|The famous daily white dress|
|The teenage portrait dress (which|
doesn't look that different from the one
pictured in the recently-revealed portrait
from a year or two before this poem)