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31 August 2011

Went up a year this evening!

Went up a year this evening!
I recollect it well!
Amid no bells nor bravoes
The bystanders will tell!
Cheerful—as to the village—
Tranquil—as to repose—
Chastened—as to the Chapel
This humble Tourist rose!
Did not talk of returning!
Alluded to no time
When, were the gales propitious—
We might look for him!
Was grateful for the Roses
In life's diverse bouquet—
Talked softly of new species
To pick another day;
Beguiling thus the wonder
The wondrous nearer drew—
Hands bustled at the moorings—
The crowd respectful grew—
Ascended from our vision
To Countenances new!
A Difference—A Daisy—
Is all the rest I knew!

                                                           - F72 (1859)  93

This might be titled “Death of a Good, Christian Gardner.” The poet reflects on a man’s death on it’s first anniversary. It was memorable to her, not for any fuss made over it, for there was none, but for the cheerful tranquility and calm the dying man showed. He was cheerful to those who came from the village, was resting quietly, and had made his peace with God.
            Dickinson makes sure to point out how he specifically complimented the Roses and talked about picking more. But this is a metaphor for moments of beauty in “life’s diverse bouquet”—the roses we find in life are to be cherished. As he was dying he hoped to find new sorts of Roses in the afterlife. And as he made these pius homilies, the ‘wondrous’ advent of death approached. Dickinson again returns to the image of a soul setting out to cross a sea: hands here ‘bustled at the moorings’ as his friends and loved one helped ease his way.
            Death for these New Englanders would be experienced quite differently than for many of us. Whereas we might have nurses and a spouse nearby, here there was a ‘crowd’ to watch him die. At the end, she sees a difference in his countenance as the living man becomes a corpse. The Daisy, unlike the beautiful Platonically eternal Rose, is a simple graveyard flower. All that remains of the mystery and of his assumed ascension into Paradise is this homely little flower soon to be planted in the ground.
            The poem is written in iambic trimeter, a meter well suited to a conversational tone.

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