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24 November 2011

A Lady red – amid the Hill

A Lady red—amid the Hill
Her annual secret keeps!
A Lady white, within the Field
In placid Lily sleeps!

The tidy Breezes, with their Brooms—
Sweep vale—and hill—and tree!
Prithee, My pretty Housewives!
Who may expected be?

The neighbors do not yet suspect!
The woods exchange a smile!
Orchard, and Buttercup, and Bird—
In such a little while!

And yet, how still the Landscape stands!
How nonchalant the Hedge!
As if the "Resurrection"
Were nothing very strange!
                                                                - F 137 (1860)  74

Dickinson has already written several poems using the wakening landscape in spring as a way of talking about the Christian Resurrection when the dead shall rise. This one is among my favorites because I fancy the image of “tidy Breezes” sweeping the country side with “their Brooms.”
Poppies and Rhodies in Spring
            The “Lady red” and “Lady white,” a tulip and a lily, perhaps, are not really dead but overwintering deep in the ground. Soon they will emerge from the ground, all swept clean of winter’s detritus. Joining them will be the blooms of the orchards, the yellow buttercup, and the migrating birds. The poet lets us see that this is quite a vast change from what is seen in that period just before the tulips bloom: the “Landscape” is still and vacant, the “Hedge” is “nonchalant.” And although the townsfolk don’t realize the great change, they do. They don’t think anything of it – heck, it happens every year. Why, then, the poem seems to ask, is the idea that people might be resurrected so very strange? We have evidence of such a miracle each and every spring.


  1. "The tidy Breezes, with their Brooms Sweep vale - and hill -..."
    I like how she makes nature recognizably human..."The Neighbors do not yet suspect!
    The woods exchange a smile!"

  2. The “Lady red—amid the Hill” is most likely fire pink, Silene virginica, a brilliant scarlet, native perennial that overwinters as a taproot on dry hillsides in eastern and central US forests. It’s in the pink family, Caryophyllaceae, hence the confusing name. The domestic tulip doesn’t occur in eastern forests.

    The ED Lexicon lists Spring as the third definition of “resurrection”, after #2, Judgement Day, when life is given back to humans, and #1, the Rising of the Dead, when dead humans return to life. ED frequently expresses doubt about the dead rising from their graves, and I’m fairly certain she would reverse the order of definitions on this Brigham Young University website.