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27 March 2012

Morning – is the place for Dew –

Morning – is the place for Dew – 
Corn – is made at Noon – 
After dinner light – for flowers – 
Dukes – for setting sun!
                                                            F223 (1861)  197

The Duke out for dinner after sunset
Dickinson was a nature lover even from within the perimeters of her home and town. She traveled  few times in her youth and twenties but soon became a stay-at-home – eventually never leaving her property at all! But one can see quite a bit from home – or at least one can in rural areas or in 19th-Century towns. And so Dickinson would encounter the morning dew as she wandered outside in the morning. At noon she could watch the heat begin to ripen the corn in her garden. “Dinner” here would refer to the midday meal. After dinner, then would be the full heat of the day when all the flowers have opened up and turned their faces to the sun.
            But all that natural stuff falls by the wayside when it comes to sunsets. Their royal reds, golds, and purples suggest nothing less than dukedom.
            But to be fair, Dickinson may well be referring to the great eagle-owl of Europe, Bubo maximus­ – a relative of the Great Horned Owl – who was known as a Duke owl. That’s more likely and more in keeping with the poem, isn’t it? And this Duke would indeed come out after the sun sets in order to hunt down his dinner.


  1. Dear Susan

    I am surprised to hear that Duke is an owl! Thank you for sharing the information.

  2. How did you find out that the eagle-owl is known as a Duke owl?

    1. I don't remember exactly, but I think it was when I Google image searching for dukes and sunset. I do remember I was pretty excited.

    2. The ED lexicon does have this meaning for duke but for some reason does not have this poem as a reference for it.

  3. FYI, "The name of the Great-Horned Owl [Bubo virginianusis] is Grand-duc d'Amérique in French. Like other French speakers, I just say Grand-duc (Great Duke in English) when I speak of the Great-Horned Owl. This name always makes me smile, because I find this bird to have a noble air and the name Grand Duke is perfect for him."

    "Le Grand-duc d'Amériquea ou Grand-duc de Virginie (Bubo virginianus) est une espèce de rapaces nocturnes appartenant à la famille des Strigidae et à la sous-famille des Striginae. Il est souvent comparé avec son cousin le Grand-duc d'Europe avec qui il partage de nombreux points communs."

    ["The Great Horned Owl or Virginian Eagle Owl (Bubo virginianus) is a species of nocturnal birds of prey belonging to the Strigidae family and the Striginae subfamily. He is often compared with his cousin the Grand Duke of Europe with whom he shares many points in common." (Google translation)]

  4. ED may have heard the French name for the Great Horned Owl, Grand-duc d'Amérique or simply Grand-duc, from French-Canadians passing through Amherst.