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22 June 2011

When Roses cease to bloom, Sir,

When Roses cease to bloom, Sir,
And Violets are done—
When Bumblebees in solemn flight
Have passed beyond the Sun—
The hand that paused to gather
Upon this Summer's day
Will idle lie—in Auburn—
Then take my flowers—pray! 
                                                           - F 8 (1858)

This poem was sent to Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican and long-time friend of the Dickinsons. He and his wife Mary were recipients of many of Emily's letters and poems. 
     In this one she is making a statement similar to that of Herrick's "gather ye rosebuds while ye may": take the offered flowers now, for life passes soon enough. "Auburn" probably refers to a cemetery in Cambridge.
     It is likely she included flowers in the same letter that held this poem, and it's a lovely bit of verse.
     The poem equates Summer with life: after the roses and violets are spent and the bumblebees retired for the year, the poet, too, will pass on. But there is a continuity here. Death isn't the end of everything. the bumblebees pass beyond the sun--there is a place for them to go. And the deceased poet isn't cold and lifeless but simply idling.


  1. I did not realize that there is a cemetery called "Auburn" in MA...thank you for this! I always just assumed that she was referring to the color of Autumn.

    See, this is why I read your blog. :)

  2. Yes! Thank you for the detail of your analysis!

  3. Dickinson is referring to Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. When she was sixteen, she visited Mount Auburn during a trip to Boston and wrote the following to a friend: "Have you ever been to Mount Auburn? If not you can form but slight conception - of the "City of the Dead." It seems as if Nature had formed the spot with a distinct idea in view of its being a resting place for her children, where wearied & disappointed they might stretch themselves beneath the spreading cypress & close their eyes "calmly as to a night repose or flowers at set of sun.""