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09 April 2012

The Flower must not blame the Bee –

The Flower must not blame the Bee – 
That seeketh his felicity
Too often at her door –

But teach the Footman from Vevay –
Mistress is "not at home" – to say – 
To people – any more!
                                                            F235 (1861)  206

That pesky Bee, always seeking his “felicity” from the lovely Flower’s nectars. He must be politely turned away and discouraged. But oh what a difference a year makes! In “Did the harebell loose its girdle” (1860), the harebell was definitely considering helping her “lover Bee” out. But even then, the question lingered about whether or not the little scamp could respect her in the morning.
            And wasn’t it only thirty poems ago in “Come slowly – Eden!” that the bee was humming around the flower’s “chambers” only to enter – apparently with no muss or fuss about it – and become “lost in balms”?
            This poem is decidedly cooler. In very formal diction the flower is instructed not to “blame the Bee” because he is by nature out for pleasure, even if it means making a pest of himself calling at the door of his “Flower.” The Flower isn’t some casual forest gentian or daisy lolling about on a stream bank. This flower is quite proper and even has a “Footman from Vevay” – a famous resort location on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The Footman might be assumed to be a cool professional. Dickinson has associated Switzerland with a certain cool aloofness before in “Our lives are Swiss – / So still –so Cool – .” The footman is given explicit instructions: Tell the Bee that I am ‘not at home … / “To people – anymore.”
            At first the bee would be crestfallen. Mistress not receiving anyone?? But here’s the double take: Mistress isn’t home to ‘people’ anymore. But what about bees?? Is that an intentional loophole?

I find this a very playful way of pushing the lover away with one hand while beckoning him with the other. If the bee is smart he’ll find the back door and dodge the snooty Footman. Before too long he too might “count his nectars” (“Come slowly – Eden!”).
The bee has to
dodge this guy
            The two stanzas each have two lines of iambic tetrameter followed by one of iambic trimeter. The first two lines of each end in complete rhymes (Bee/felicity; Vevay/to say) and the last words of both stanzas rhyme (her door/any more). The tightly-knit effect contributes to the air of drollery and play. There’s certainly no animosity involved when the poetic metaphor for a hopeful lover and a proper maiden involves a flower and bee.  


  1. Just found this . Fabulous idea. How do I find #1,#2, etc.? (Thank You!)

    1. You can either use the search bar (below the header) or else just go back in time using the Blog Archive. Welcome to the Blog!

    2. Thank You for your Welcome and your Blog! I just commented on Fr449 as "Anonymous." I don't know how to identify myself under "Select profile." I'm new to computers, blogs, etc.

    3. I'm not sure as I don't get that option. I went to another website to see, and it recognized me. I assume that because blogspot is a Google service and I have a Google profile that it recognizes me. So you can either set up a Google profile (through gmail, Google+, etc.) -- or simply sign your name if you prefer to not be Anonymous!

  2. Thank You once again - I just now found your message! ( Not too good at this. ) Tom Boring

  3. Susan, your comment is delightful, insightful, especially that cleverly disguised loophole. In Line 2 ED's cleverly disguised pronoun, unmasked, reveals identities of Flower and Bee. ED's 1864 letter-poem to Sue (L288) skips disguise:

    Sweet Sue,
    There is
    no first, or last,
    in Forever -
    It is Centre, there,
    all the time -
    To believe - is enough,
    and the right of
    supposing -
    Take back that
    "Bee" and "Buttercup"
    I have no Field
    for them, though
    for the Woman
    whom I prefer,
    Here is Festival -