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12 August 2011

If I should cease to bring a Rose

If I should cease to bring a Rose
Upon a festal day,
'Twill be because beyond the Rose
I have been called away—

If I should cease to take the names
My buds commemorate—
'Twill be because Death's finger
Clasps my murmuring lip!
                                                                 - F 53 (1859)

Let’s face it. Dickinson has written better poems. This one was purportedly sent to someone along with a rose, so maybe she just dashed something off. The poet shows that the only thing that could keep her from bringing roses to festive events or funerals would be Death. She returns to the silence of the grave in later poems with greater effect (“my granite lip”). Indeed it is hard to imagine the final image of “Death’s finger” clasping her lip. A finger couldn’t grip lips, neither could a finger clasp lips like clasping a necklace. Other versions have ‘Claps” rather than “Clasps”, but that is even more far fetched.
While in the first stanza has the exact rhyme of “Rose” and “Rose” and the perfect rhyme of “day” and “away”, the second stanza has “commemorate” in rhyming position with “lip” and this doesn’t make much of a rhyme.