|Garter of gold|
Her Garter — was of Gold —
Her Petticoat of Purple — plain —
Her Dimities as old
Exactly — as the World
And yet the newest Star
Enrolled upon the Hemisphere
Be wrinkled — much as Her —
Too near to God — to pray —
Too near to Heaven — to fear —
The Lady of the Occident
Retired without a Care —
Her Candle so expire
The flickering be seen
On Ball of Mast — in Bosporus —
And Dome — and Window Pane.
F495 (1862) J716
This charming poem has the sun undressing herself at night. We see the garments scattered across the sky: her golden garter would be the wispy gold clouds; the purple petticoat, a darkening cumulous cloud. Her "Dimities" might be her dress, or apron, or a delicate chemise. These would be the opalescent or sheer white clouds.
Dickinson fancies these Dimities are as old as the world itself, although no doubt she is suggesting that the sun, rather than her undies, and the world are the same age (and I think she knew better as she enjoyed the study of astronomy). The sun is so old that even newer stars are as wrinkled as she is. Well, that takes the fun out of seeing the old girl take her clothes off!
The sun simply goes to sleep, retires in the west, or the Occident, "without a Care. The flickering of her candle as she sinks below the horizon can be seen from a ship's mast, from the Strait of Istanbul, from domes and even from the bedroom windowpane.
I think this poem compares well to Dickinson's other sunset poems. In case you want to read them, here's a list. Remember, you can just copy the title into the search bar (under the blog header) to get to the poem.
F297, "This is the land – the Sunset washes": the sky is the sea and purple sunset clouds are the boats unloading their "Opal Bales."
F327, "How the old Mountains drip with Sunset": a series of sunset imagery.
F468, "Whole Gulfs – of Red, and Fleets – of Red": imagines the sunset to be a red gulf with a fleet of red ships crewed by sailors "of solid Blood."
F119 "If this is 'fading'": is bit of sunset rapture from a simpler time when people paid attention to sunset – after all, there wasn't electricity, so sunset actually heralded the onset of dark!
F182, "The Sun kept stooping – stooping – low!": portrays the setting sun as a splendid warrior battling the growing troops of darkness.
F296, "Where Ships of Purple – gently toss": once again has the inversion of sea with sky; here, the ships are purple clouds.
F321, "Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple": shows the sun, the "Juggler of Day," being quenched by purpling darkness.
F204, "I'll tell you how the Sun rose": has the evening sky a "purple stile" that the yellow clouds like boys and girls climb over.
F233, "A slash of Blue! A sweep of Gray": compares the sunset (in my reading of the poem) to the gathering Union and Confederate soldiers in their blue and gray uniforms.