Corn – is made at Noon –
After dinner light – for flowers –
Dukes – for setting sun!
F223 (1861) 197
|The Duke out for dinner|
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.