Far ends of tired Days —
It half endears the Abstinence —
And Pain — is missed — in Praise —
As Flavors — cheer Retarded Guests
With Banquettings to be —
So Spices — stimulate the time
Till my small Library —
It may be Wilderness — without —
Far feet of failing Men —
But Holiday — excludes the night —
And it is Bells — within —
I thank these Kinsmen of the Shelf —
Their Countenances Kid
Enamor — in Prospective —
And satisfy — obtained —
F512 (1863) J604
This is one of those Dickinson poems where the reader must pay close attention, for grammatically it is loosely sketched. The theme is books and how much comfort and joy the poet takes in them.
Dickinson biographer Richard B. Sewell argues that Dickinson "saw herself as a poet in the company of the Poets – and, functioning as she did mostly on her own, read them (among other reasons) for company" (The Life of Emily Dickinson, p.6710). They were her "Kinsmen of the Shelf."
|The famous Shakespeare & Company
bookstore, Paris' Left Bank Photo by John Rogers, Visualist Images
Dickinson becomes completely engrossed with her books. It might be "Wilderness" outside, there might be struggling and weary travellers, it might be late at night; but for this reader it is all "Holiday"; it is as if she were in a delightful place and bells were ringing in celebration.
She ends the poem rather humbly, thanking her kinsmen with their kid-leather faces. They are always enticing and they always bring complete satisfaction. Dickinson often became quite passionate when talking about books. This one seems simple and quiet.