Search This Blog

13 December 2012

It would never be Common - more - I said -

It would never be Common - more - I said -
Difference - had begun -
Many a bitterness - had been -
But that old sort - was done – 

Or - if it sometime - showed - as 'twill -
Upon the Downiest - Morn _
Such bliss - had I - for all the years -
'Twould give an Easier - pain –

I'd so much joy - I told it - Red -
Upon my simple Cheek -
I felt it publish - in my Eye -
"Twas needless - any speak –

I walked - as wings - my body bore -
The feet - I former used -
Unnecessary - now to me -
As boots - would be -to Bird –

I put my pleasure all abroad -
I dealt a word of Gold
To every Creature - That I met -
And Dowered - all the World –

When - suddenly - my Riches shrank -
A Goblin - drank my Dew -
My Palaces - dropped tenantless -
Myself - was beggared - too –

I clutched at sounds -
I groped at shapes -
I touched the tops of Films -
I felt the Wilderness roll back
Along my Golden lines –

The Sackcloth - hangs upon the nail -
The Frock I used to wear -
But where my moment of Brocade -
My - drop - of India?

                                                          F388 (1862)  430

The two sisters' luscious sensual love is ruined by
goblins in Rossetti's "Goblin Market." This
illustration is by her brother
, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Is there a better line for expressing the crashing misery of being dumped by one you passionately love than "A Goblin—drank my Dew"? The line may owe something to Christina Rossetti's long poem "The Goblin Market" published the same year, but we've already seen the Gothic Goblin-loving side of Dickinson in "The Soul has Bandaged moments" ("Sip, Goblin, from the very lips / The Lover—hovered—o'er") and in "If you were coming in the Fall" where her uncertainty about when her lover will return "goads me, like the Goblin Bee— / That will not state—its sting."  
          The poem recounts a love affair. The speaker begins by recounting a moment that ushered in the most sublime period of the affair. As if confiding in a dear friend or diary, and letting the reader enter into the middle of the conversation, the speaker recalls saying how the love affair had gone beyond the usual "Common" sort. Yes, there had been problems in the past but now things had improved. And even though the occasional unpleasantness still occurred from time to time, she had so much love and joy that the pain was "Easier." 
          In the fullness of the love affair, the speaker felt as if she were flying rather than walking, that her love was so apparent in her eye and blushing cheek that everyone knew it. She was so overflowing with love that she "Dowered--all the world" and gave a golden word to every creature that she met. 
          But then the beloved left or ended the affair. The speaker was "beggared" by the experience and seemed to have gone mad, clutching and groping at sounds and shapes and feeling a wilderness take over where once there was golden love. The dress she used to wear is now like "Sackcloth" to her. In the final lines, she wonders what happened to her "moment of Brocade" and her "drop—of India." The love affair has been condensed to a moment and a single drop. "Brocade" is the luxurious contrast to rough sackcloth. India would have been seen by Dickinson as an exotic and extravagant land of beauty and spices and mystery. 

It may be that Dickinson is referencing a poem she wrote a year earlier:
My eye is fuller than my vase – 

Her Cargo – is of Dew – 

And still – my Heart – my Eye outweighs – 

East India – for you! 

She is yearning for that bit of India, mourning that the Goblin drank the lovely and precious dew. The poem might have been written as mourning over the final break with Sue, her dear friend, sister-in-law, and perhaps lover. If so, it adds support to the poem being linked to Rossetti's poem--which featured the love of two sisters.      


  1. I read this as her relationship with inspiration itself that leads her to write Gold to every Creature, and how, when it goes away she is bereft, yet still tries to clutch at sounds.

    1. I think the sackcloth is her white dress, the one she wore once she devoted herself to poetry.

  2. Aside from the biographical details that might suggest specificities, was there ever a clearer and more devastating picture of bipolar - the depressive then manic then depressive phases?

    1. Yeah, I imagine someone who experiences bipolar symptoms could identify with this poem pretty well.

  3. Ach! I wrote 'boos' instead of 'boot' to birds...
    Corrected now and makes a lot more sense.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It’s over. We had our bitter differences, but I’d trade that anyday for “Such bliss - had I - for all the years -”; “I walked - as wings - my body bore -”, “I dowered - all the World –”.

    But “suddenly - my Riches shrank -, A Goblin - drank my Dew -”. “I clutched at sounds –, I groped at shapes -, I felt the Wilderness roll back”.

    And now,

    “The Sackcloth - hangs upon the nail -, The Frock I used to wear -, But where my moment of Brocade -, My - drop - of India?” Not even a memento have I left, in memory of those yesterdays.

    Bipolar? Maybe.

    Abandoned? She has said as much.

    Wishing Wadsworth were still on her side of North America? Loud and clear here and in poems past (see comments, F310, F344) and, no doubt, more to come.