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03 October 2011

Perhaps you'd like to buy a flower

Perhaps you'd like to buy a flower,
But I could never sell—
If you would like to borrow,
Until the Daffodil

Unties her yellow Bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the Bees, from Clover rows
Their Hock, and Sherry, draw,

Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!
                                                                  -F 92 (1859)  134

I love daffodils and the image of them as village maidens untying their  bonnets is both apt and sweet. This is the playful Dickinson. There’s no way she would sell one of the precious pre-spring flowers from her locally-famous garden, although she would lend them—which of course is to say that she would give them away. But, ah! New England! No one has to buy or borrow a flower once spring has come, heralded by both the arrival of the daffodils and by the bees buzzing up and down  the rows of clover, drawing their delicious Hock (a Rhine wine) and sherry.
            The use of slant rhymes (flower / borrow; sell / Daffodil) true rhymes (door / more) keep the poem from sounding saccharine. The penultimate line with the double internal rhymes of Why / I and lend / then lends a jaunty, teasing quality, particularly with the smiling finger-wag of the last line.


  1. I read this as a flower notecard presented with an rsvp for drinks later.

  2. ED enjoys making facetious offers that sound too good to be true because they mean the opposite of what they seem to say.

    ‘When I count the seeds’, F51, puts the offer in the last line after stating the conditions, but moving the offer to the first line makes the joke more obvious:

    I will unreluctantly give up this coming summer’s garden season
    (1) when I can count the seeds in the ground that will bloom someday,
    (2) when I know the dead and buried have gone to heaven, and
    (3) when I believe in a heavenly garden that no one has ever seen and can pick a flower without feeling any sting of doubt.

    If you agree to that offer, ED has a bridge to sell you.

    Likewise, ‘Perhaps you'd like to buy a flower’, F92, tells an admirer of ED's garden that she would never sell a flower, but if they would like to borrow one, they’re welcome to take it as long as they return it before daffodils bloom and bees buzz around clover.

    You can guess the joke; bees start buzzing before garden flowers bloom, and daffodils bloom first. ED doesn’t sell her babies.

    Ergo, gotcha. Har, Har.

  3. I understood it as the one being addressed is looking for something that hasn't bloomed yet but somehow ED has it. Could be an emotion, thing, hope, companionship, etc.

    While she would not share it permanently, but would lend to the one being addressed until the thing he is looking for is in full bloom and in abundance.

    Further 'not an hour more' to me depicted as that ED wants the addressed one to find his own since it will be in abundance during blooming season rather than latching onto ED's which was temporary.

    Or it might be a novice misunderstanding, since I am new to poetry.