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07 January 2012

She went as quiet as the Dew

She went as quiet as the Dew
From an Accustomed flower.
Not like the Dew, did she return
At the Accustomed hour!

She dropt as softly as a star
From out my summer's Eve –
Less skillful than Le Verriere
It's sorer to believe!
                                                F159 (1860)  149 

Another meek woman dies – although this poem is reminiscent of  F146, “All overgrown with cunning moss,” the poem where Dickinson mourns the death of Charlotte Bronte who disappeared like the migrating bird but without coming back. This death is even more quiet, as “quiet as the Dew,” and soft as a falling star. But there is no return from the grave, and so this woman doesn’t return at morning as dew does.
            Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier was a French mathematician most famous for his work in celestial  mechanics that led him to predict a planet, Neptune, that would account for discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus. It took him a lot of detailed and brilliant calculations, the accuracy of which let to the epithet, “the man who discovered a planet with the point of his pen.” But while Neptune and Uranus have such regular orbits that their appearance and reappearance in our field of (assisted) vision can be predicted, the dead woman has dropped from sight altogether.
Urbain Le Verrier
            That’s about it for interest value in this little poem. We don’t learn anything about why this woman matters to the poet – or even if she were a real woman or only a figure standing for all the people who leave the world so quietly that nothing is disturbed. However, it is of some interest to note that Dickinson, who studied a bit of astronomy was very up to date. Le Verrier announced his discovery in 1846, just 14 years before this poem was written. That would have been later than Dickinson’s studies. All things related to heaven and the heavens interested her.


  1. The comparison with Le Verriere seems to suggest that most of us, lacking Verriere’s skill and tenacity, are left with the poor choice of belief in what we cannot understand or prove about heaven.

    1. Thank you for this comment. I don't think I quite grokked the connection of 'sorer to believe' to the contrasted firmer knowledge of science.

  2. The third definition of "sore" in the ED Lexicon is "difficult", for example, "It's difficult to believe that she was less skillful than Le Verrier (or science)".

    Perhaps "she" died as quickly as a shooting star as a result of a stroke, a fairly frequent occurrence in 19th century Amherst.

  3. In 1860 Le Verrier announced the discovery of the planet Vulcan, orbiting closer to the Sun than Mercury does. It was an error, of course, but Dickinson might have been influenced it. So very up to date.