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18 March 2012

Poor little Heart!

Poor little Heart!

Did they forget thee?

Then dinna care! Then dinna care!

Proud little Heart!

Did they forsake thee?

Be debonnaire! Be debonnaire!

Frail little Heart!

I would not break thee—

Could'st credit me? Could'st credit me?

Gay little Heart—

Like Morning Glory!

Wind and Sun­ – wilt thee array!
                                                            F214 (1861)  192

Without any evidence whatsoever I suggest that the poet addresses a child or beloved pet – perhaps her big Newfoundland dog, Carlo or else perhaps her nephew Ned, Sue and Austin’s first-born. Dickinson and Ned became quite close, but when this poem was written he would have been just a baby.
Oil painting, Frances Hodgkins
            The poem has the simple structure of a nursery song: each stanza begins with an adjective for the “little Heart”: Poor, Proud, Frail, and Gay. The last lines, except for that of the last stanza, have repeating phrases. The poet speaks with the familiar “thee” – as one would to a child or pet. And while the first three stanzas sympathize with the “wrongs” done (being forgotten, forsaken, and heartbroken), the final one reassures that all will be well. “Let’s go outside where we can enjoy some sunshine and the lovely breeze!”
            I picture the narrator in a babysitting role, rocking a crying infant or child and comforting it.


  1. What do you think the exhortations of "Then dinna care! Then dinna care!" refers to?

    1. I'd paraphrase to say, "Have you been forgottin? Well, don't care!"

  2. Thanks. I wonder if Then dinna care was chosen after Be debonnaire!, or the other way around?