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11 November 2011

As Children bid the Guest "Good Night"

As Children bid the Guest "Good Night"
And then reluctant turn –
My flowers raise their pretty lips –
Then put their nightgowns on.

As children caper when they wake –
Merry that it is Morn –
My flowers from a hundred cribs
Will peep, and prance again.
                                                      - F127 (1859) 133
It’s a simple poem in simple ballad or hymn form: two quatrains of alternating tetrameter and trimeter with rhymes – or in this case, slant rhymes – on the second and fourth line of each stanza. The structure of the imagery is simple, too. Two lines present children either reluctantly going to bed or merrily getting up, and the lines that follow them present the flowers.
            The reader has to pull a veil a bit over their imagination as it’s hard to imagine the dying flowers of autumn as putting “their nightgowns on,” as well as prancing when spring comes around again and they “peep” out of the earth. But it’s a sweet thought: flowers don’t like their long winter sleep anymore than children like having to go to bed. And both flowers and children are adorable.

6 comments:

  1. This seems like a good place to ask two questions about the appearance of children in Dickinson's poems: one, is there a general symbolism and two, had she ever put in writing how she felt about not having children?

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    1. I don't know about symbolism; her innocent children seem like other Victorian writers' innocent children. I don't know about her ever saying anything about not having any. I've never run across it in what I've read of her writing or in my ref. books.

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  2. Doesn't this make more sense referring to flowers that close at night and open in the morning? It would explain the "raise their pretty lips" line which makes no sense if the flowers are dying in Autumn. Nightgowns would refer to the look of the closed bud of the flower.

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    1. You're absolutely right. I must not have been reading well at the time. (But I'm better now at 650 poems than I was at this one, number 127.)

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  3. To clarify I agree with the post about night/morning thing I was having the same thoughts.

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