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16 October 2011

Glowing is her Bonnet –

Glowing is her Bonnet –
Glowing is her Cheek –
Glowing is her Kirtle –
Yet she cannot speak.

Better as the Daisy
From the Summer hill
Vanish unrecorded
Save by tearful rill—

Save by loving sunrise
Looking for her face.
Save by feet unnumbered
Pausing at the place.
                                             - F 106 (1859)  72

Kirtle and bonnet
This is another poem knocked off in tribute to a dead woman. I wonder how many of them Dickinson wrote! This woman looks alive. Three repetitions of the word “Glowing” emphasize that: her bonnet glows, her cheek glows (perhaps from rouge?), and so does her kirtle (a sort of tunic dress). But she is only decked out for her funeral. There will be guests, food, a church service, a burial (out behind Dickinson’s window) – the whole kit and kaboodle.
            But wait, the poet tells us. Think of the little daisy that dies at summer’s end. There’s no ceremony for it, no dress-up make believe, no service with its guest book. Still, the little brook is “tearful” and the sun comes up looking for it. People walking up the hill to look for it pause for a moment as if acknowledging its absence. This is a better way to go.
            Here is what Wikipedia says about Dickinson’s own death:
Dickinson was buried, laid in a white coffin with vanilla-scented heliotrope, a Lady's Slipper orchid, and a "knot of blue field violets" placed about it.[94][115] The funeral service, held in the Homestead's library, was simple and short; Higginson, who had only met her twice, read "No Coward Soul Is Mine", a poem by Emily Brontë that had been a favorite of Dickinson's.[113] At Dickinson's request, her "coffin [was] not driven but carried through fields of buttercups" for burial in the family plot at West Cemetery on Triangle Street

Okay, not exactly like the daisy’s dainty disappearance, but lovely and flowery all the same. It’s odd that her Preceptor, Higginson, chose to read a poem of Bronte’s.


  1. Of course Higginson would read someone else's poem at Emily's funeral - still not ready to be published in his eyes!

    1. Gnashing of teeth. Also, he had no idea about the hundreds and hundreds of poems she had stashed away.

  2. Surely, Colonel Higginson read Bronte knowing that she was one of Dickinson's favorite poets.

    " I delayed till now. Reminded again of gigantic Emily Bronte, of whom her Charlotte said "Full of ruth for others, on herself she had no mercy." - L742

    Higginson received abouut 100 poems from Dickinson between 1862 and 1886, the year of her death. Judging from her letters to him, he voiced some criticism of what she had sent him, but that was in 1862, at the very beginning of their corresponence. Here's what he was telling her by 1869 - something that has survived from his letters to her.

    " Sometimes, when I take out your letters and verses, dear friend, and feel their strange power, it is not strange that I find it hard to write .... ... it isolates one anywhere to think beyond a certain point, or have such flashes as come to you." -L330a

    By the time he was helping prepare the poems for publication, he was expressing ebullient admiration for them.

    1. Yes, I think you're right. I was being a bit flippant.

  3. Is it not common how we treat all art when first revealed. It takes a while for real art genius to be acknowledged. But "Higgie!", not even one poem!!!

  4. Susan, you're blog here is the only place on the internet (anywhere?) I could find resolve for this poem so thank you for the help. It's of great service. You are quite adept at making sense of these. For some reason I couldn't get the first stanza being about a corpse dressed up. Even though now, thanks to you, I see that second paragraph indicates the death of something else in the first stanza. The poem seems to say that beauty remembered and speaking through absence is better than beauty remaining but being mute. Which I guess might translate into something like "better than being beautiful on the outside, and dead, be beautiful now on the inside, alive."

    1. Thank you for the compliment! And I agree with your summation. It adds a bit of wryness to think how ED often refers to herself as a daisy.

  5. For me, F106 is another version of ED imagining her own death, as she did in F81 and F102. She doesn’t care whether her bonnet or her cheek glows, what she cares about in Stanza 1 is that her voice is silenced, she will never write another poem.

    She would prefer her death were unrecorded, like a daisy on a hill, honored by a little brook and the sun searching for her face, honored by unnumbered fans pausing to read and understand her poetry. She was that sure of her immortality.