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04 July 2011

So has a Daisy vanished

So has a Daisy vanished
From the fields today—
So tiptoed many a slipper
To Paradise away—

Oozed so in crimson bubbles
Day's departing tide—
Are ye then with God?
                                                            - F 19 (1858)

A little daisy is gone without a fuss. And so, Dickinson muses, do many souls depart this world tiptoeing away in slippers to Paradise. Surely this is the image of the meek or the poor in spirit who are to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven respectively, according to Jesus. 
   After likening such a quiet parting to the disappearance of a daisy, Dickinson then likens it to a sunset. But to me the imagery becomes a bit ghastly. The sunset oozes in crimson bubbles like a gurgling wound. The life flows out like a tide. The three gerunds in line seven chart the course of life for daisy or gentle soul: the live, active time; the tripping and tiptoeing into death; and flowing into Paradise. "Flowing" indicates a transformation--it is no longer a flesh-and-blood person or even a flowering plant. A transformation has occurred from the physical to the spiritual. 
     "Flowing" sounds a lot more spiritual than 'oozing'--the word used just two lines earlier. But Dickinson chose that word for a reason. Life may not always flow right away; at first it may have to be squeezed out of its frame.
     And is the soul with God? The question is unanswered, although seemingly implied by the confidence earlier that the slippers have tiptoed off to Paradise. 
   The poem reminds me slightly of Whitman's references to effusion. Here the body effuses itself at death, oozing and flowing to be with God. 


  1. Interesting analyses. You get a lot out of this poem. Thanks!

  2. Did ED have exposure to Eastern thought or was she mainly influenced by her study of the Bible?

    1. Many scholars write about influences from Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson. Transcendentalism was influenced by Eastern religions. There is quite a bit written about Dickinson and Transcendentalism. I have two books by RC Allen, one of which is Shatter Me with Dawn: the Transcendental Experience of Emily Dickinson; the other is Emily Dickinson: Accidental Buddhist.

  3. An alternate reading of the final two lines is that they refer to the soul in Paradise in the company of God (AFTER it has vanished, tiptoed, oozed), where it would be doing all threw things: blooming, tripping (ie. 'moving or treading lightly'--as in the song in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe: Tripping Hither), and flowing. This seems to me a less strained reading, given the shift in verbs from past tense to present participle. The 'then' could then mean 'in that case' as well as 'at that time.'

  4. "But to me the imagery becomes a bit ghastly. The sunset oozes in crimson bubbles like a gurgling wound."

    Perhaps ghastly to us, insulated by modern medicine from 19th century mortality rates. Try to imagine yourself in ED's reality:

    "More than 30 people in her circle died of tuberculosis alone by the time she reached adulthood." (

    "In 1851, a year when several of her contemporaries died of tuberculosis, Dickinson also displayed consumptive symptoms for which she consulted local and Boston doctors. For two years she dosed with a glycerin prescription from Boston’s eminent TB specialist, Dr. James Jackson, until her symptoms apparently subsided." (

    Sheds a different light on crimson sunsets don't you think? She probably had visited dying friends during their final days and may have watched death happen.

    1. I think that's what makes it feel a bit ghastly to me. that she had witnessed such deaths and could find the reflection in the clouds...

  5. The final “Are ye then with God?” guides an English speaker’s thoughts in supernatural directions, but Spanish speakers say a simple heartfelt “goodbye” with Vaya con Dios, Go with God. A mundane meaning of the final line might suggest a mundane meaning for preceding lines. Hmmm, Lines 1-2 literally tell us a daisy died, Lines 3-4 tell us some pink lady slippers, Cypripedium acaule, did the same, and Lines 5-6 tell us a departing tide at sunset looks crimson if you’re on the west coast. For football fans, the University of Alabama football team just won a road game and is headed back to Tuscaloosa. And don’t we all bloom at one time or another, strut trippingly through our brief on-stage performance, then flow gently or not so gently into that dark night? Well, vaya con Dios or adios my friend, whichever you prefer.

  6. Well done, Larry!