Search This Blog

30 August 2014

I send Two Sunsets—

I send Two Sunsets—
Day and I—in competition ran—
I finished Two—and several Stars—
While He—was making One—

His own was ampler—but as I
Was saying to a friend—
Mine—is the more convenient
To Carry in the Hand—
                    F557 (1863)  J308

This poem has Robert Frost's folksy, anecdotal tone and understated humor. Frost is usually considered to be in Dickinson's lineage (versus Whitman, if you are one to divide American poetry into two bloodlines), but this poem seems a reverse channeling of Frost into Dickinson.

Chichester Canal, JMW Turner, 1828
     It is among one of the many poems Dickinson sent her sister-in-law, Sue, and perhaps that accounts in part for the easy, conversational style. Johnson has this poem following " The One that could repeat the Summer Day" [F549], which takes a more weighty approach to poetic creation versus divine creation. In that poem Dickinson discusses the immortality of a great poem and claims that a good enough summer-day poem would be greater than a summer day itself. Here she settles for convenience. Unlike the vast beauty of a real one, her sunset poems can be folded into a pocket or hand delivered to a friend. 
Dickinson dismisses this insight quite casually, telling her recipient/reader that this wasn't a new or profound insight (as were many of her other poems to Sue), but just a fun little observation she made "to a friend". She drolly sets up the comparison as having had a little "competition" with Day. While he has to labor all day to produce one sunset, she could produce two and throw in a few stars as a bonus.
  The Summer Day poem was also sent to Sue, so perhaps Dickinson wanted to lighten the tone a bit – not seem to take herself so seriously.

It's all quite charming.  

*note: yes, I got this and the next poem out of order. They should have preceded "Through the Dark Sod". A bit of carelessness on my part.


  1. Franklin indicates that at least one copy of this poem had the note that it was sent with brilliant flowers. So, the line about convenience "To carry in the Hand --" is very literal.

  2. Lovely and brief as young love.

  3. ‘I send Two Sunsets’ glows with humor, a footrace between ED and Day, won, of course, by the poet. And not just a minor distance between them at the finish line, ED ran twice as fast and then some.

    Don’t feel bad, Day, your sunset was better than either of mine (but mine is easier to deliver by hand, chortle, chortle).

    We forget that ED’s humor, even at an early age, could bring down the house. Her 1855 Washington, DC, repartee with older men around a dinner table is legendary.

    1. Would love to see / read some of the anecdotes about those dinners!

  4. Feeling that “all is jostle, here – scramble and confusion,” [in Washington, DC, 1855,] she remained within the circuit of her preoccupations, as we see in a family story about her falsely naive reaction to a flaming plum pudding brought on at dinner: “Oh, Sir, may one eat of hell fire with impunity here?”

    Habegger, Alfred. 2002. My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson, p. 374