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19 September 2011

“They have not chosen me” – he said –

“They have not chosen me” – he said –
“But I have chosen them”!
Brave – Broken hearted statement –
Uttered in Bethleem!

I could not have told it,
But since Jesus dared,
Sovreign, know a Daisy
Thy dishonor shared!
                                                             - F 87 (1859)

Jesus, soon before his crucifixion, told his disciples that he had chosen them—soon afterwards they ran off from the soldiers, leaving Jesus captured. Later still, Simon Peter would claim he never knew Jesus. That is the background of the “Brave – Broken hearted statement”.  The emotions are emphasized alliteratively with a string of ‘Bs’: “But”, “Brave”, “Broken”, “Bethleem”.
            The poet sees this behavior as dishonoring Jesus and in the second stanza she confesses that she, too, has been similarly dishonored.  Referring to herself as “Daisy”, a humble yet hopeful name, she tattles directly to God the Father. Dickinson again uses alliteration to emphasize the point: “dared”, “Daisy”, “dishonor”.
            I suspect this is one of those poems that gets written when you’ve just been snubbed or otherwise slighted by those you consider your most special friends. One doesn’t have to read too many Dickinson poems or letters to find that she does indeed feel a bit left out and neglected from time to time. 


  1. I think this analysis is just right. "Daisy" or "Queen" apparently were a pet names of Samuel Bowles for ED -- although I think you can overdo it trying to read biographical detail into the poems.

  2. Wow, that's interesting! I read "I could not have told it," as meaning "I could not have said, as Jesus did, 'They have not chosen me, but I have nevertheless chosen them'"--as In, I couldn't have borne that heart-break that Jesus bore. And then I read, "Sovereign! Know a Daisy/Thy dishonor shared," as "Just as you, Jesus, have been heart-broken/dishonored by those who overlook your choosing them, loving them--so does the humble daisy, which offers its commonplace beauty (love) to everyone, but they so often overlook it in favor of more flashy flowers." So the gist of the poem being that both Jesus and the daisy offer the world great love/beauty/grace, but the world overlooks it--and Emily feels she couldn't be that generous, or bear that heartbreak. An idea?

    1. I think that not only is she "Daisy" in that this is a familiar nickname for her -- but that she is identifying with the humble daisy who gets overlooked as you suggest.

      I also think that she was too decorous to complain, but then decided, heck -- if Jesus can make this sort of comment, so can I. (John 15:16)

    2. That makes sense: "...since Jesus dared." I love it! Thanks!