The Apple on the Tree—
Provided it do hopeless—hang—
That—"Heaven" is—to Me!
The Color, on the Cruising Cloud—
The interdicted Land—
Behind the Hill—the House behind—
Her teasing Purples—Afternoons—
Enamored—of the Conjuror—
That spurned us—Yesterday!
F310 (1862) 239
Heaven is that apple hanging hopelessly out of reach, the color of a distant cloud, the taboo land where a house is hidden behind a hill. It teases us, like the June bee of an earlier poem, with its beautiful purple afternoons until we forget that just yesterday it “spurned” us. That’s again like the mocking sky of the June bee poem (The nearest Dream recedes—unrealized—).
It is possible, however, that Dickinson is doing something quite different here. Perhaps she is talking about her old passion for her friend and sister-in-law Sue (or some other woman). Via David Preest (p. 75):
“Paula Bennett convincingly suggests that the heaven out of reach is the unobtainable Sue. ‘Purple’ is a suitable colour for Sue, who has such a rich personality that, even when she ‘spurned [Emily] yesterday,’ she easily by her magic decoys Emily into remaining enamoured of her. Bennett is prepared to believe that the hill which guards the house of Paradise is Sue’s mons Veneris.
“If we could know that Emily had read translations of Sappho’s poems, some support for Bennett’s theory would be given by the fact that ‘the unreachable apple’
was a metaphor first used by the lesbian poet Sappho for the untouched maiden who
hung like an apple on the topmost branch of the tree ‘by harvester….not reached.’”