Its fee – to be of Gold –
Had Nature – in Her monstrous House
A single Ragged Child –
To earn a Mine – would run
That Interdicted Way,
And tell Him – Charge thee speak it plain –
That so far – Truth is True?
And answer What I do –
Beginning with the Day
That Night – begun –
Nay – Midnight – 'twas –
Since Midnight – happened – say –
If once more – Pardon – Boy –
The Magnitude thou may
Enlarge my Message – If too vast
Another Lad – help thee –
Thy Pay – in Diamonds – be –
And His – in solid Gold –
Say Rubies – if He hesitate –
My Message – must be told –
That when the Hills – come down –
And hold no higher than the Plain –
My Bond – have just begun –
And when the Heavens – disband –
And Deity conclude –
Then – look for me. Be sure you say –
Least Figure – on the Road –
Fr 673 (1863) J400
This love poem tumbles out in a rush, mirroring the speaker's urgency in sending a message to her beloved. The first line reminds me of a town crier in the market square calling for a trusty boy for an important mission. It also reminds me of the hyperbole of Shakespeare's desperate King Richard III who famously shouted, "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" The kingdom-for-horse trade is something like the goldmine-for message. The breathless speaker is willing to squander not only gold, but diamonds and rubies to let her lover know that she will be faithful forever.
|Dickinson might have had|
Oliver Twist in mind
The midnight mystery reminds me of "A Wife – at daybreak – I shall be –" where the speaker says, "At Midnight – I am but a Maid – / How short it takes to make a Bride" (Fr185). The rest of that poem hints at Death as the bridegroom, or perhaps Jesus come to escort the Soul, but although the sense of wonder and anticipation is similar, I read nothing in the current poem of seductive Death, or some joyful union with a Deity. In fact, part of the speaker's pledge to the beloved is that she will still be waiting for him after heaven disbands and the Deity is ended. Wow.
But after all that about being true and Truth, and the supporting detail, the speaker instructs the messenger(s) to give her pledge of faithfulness. It is quite beautiful: when over geologic time the hills have eroded to plains, her commitment will just be beginning. When cosmic time itself runs out, if he looks for her he will see her, the 'Least Figure – on the Road.' This last bit is in keeping with Dickinson's fondness for portraying herself as little, in poems and in letters (e.g., her self description to her Preceptor Thomas Higginson, "I am small, like the wren").
The first stanza is an exception in that it is not in the short meter variant. The first line, "A Tongue – to tell Him I am true!", needs all those syllables to kick the poem off – and it gets some extra energy from the 't' alliterations: Tongue, to tell, true. All those 't's and one syllable words – plus the exclamation point – just shout, 'Big News'!
The tone and subject remind me very much of 'Going to Him! Happy Letter!' written in 1862. It's also a 'Tell Him' message, but without the Ragged Boy.