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29 August 2011

So bashful when I spied her!

So bashful when I spied her!
So pretty—so ashamed!
So hidden in her leaflets
Lest anybody find—

So breathless till I passed here—
So helpless when I turned
And bore her struggling, blushing,
Her simple haunts beyond!

For whom I robbed the Dingle—
For whom betrayed the Dell—
Many, will doubtless ask me,
But I shall never tell!
                                              - F 70 (1859)  91

Here the poet turns an image of a Fallen Eve into an image of forcible abduction to describe her theft of a flower for an unspecified recipient. The poem begins innocently enough. A flower is bashfully hidden amid its protecting leaflets. The analogy to Eve is signaled by its being ‘ashamed’ as Eve was ashamed to appear naked before God and so is usually seen with fig leaves artfully draped about her to hide her nakedness. But things take a turn for the worse in the second stanza. Instead of a romantic knight or other benign figure tenderly plucking the flower for someone who will love it, the poet pretty much deflowers it, carrying it ‘struggling’ and ‘helpless’ away from its simple home.
The last stanza tells us it is all a bit of a lark. The flower taken from the Dingle (a wooded valley or dell) is but a gift for a friend. But the imagery has shifted yet again. From Eve hidden in shame, to a helpless maiden forcibly abducted, we now see the poet as a thief and betrayer. The tone, however, is far from dark. Instead it is mischievously ironic: the slight and gentle poet no doubt carefully picks and tends to the bud but enjoys donning the mantle of brigand and cad for the amusement of her audience.


  1. A good interpretation, but in the second line of the last stanza is an "I" that shouldn't be there.

    1. Thank you -- I corrected it and it makes a marked improvement in the meter!