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30 April 2013

Could — I do more — for Thee —

Could — I do more — for Thee —
Wert Thou a Bumble Bee —
Since for the Queen, have I —
Nought but Bouquet?
                                                           F443 (1862)  J447

Ah, if only you were a bumble bee I might be able to make you happy. I don’t have much, but at least I have a bouquet of flowers. That should make a bee buzz! There’s a bit of a sexy tease here. Dickinson wrote several poems where the bee is a lover seeking the nectar of his flower (e.g., F205). The dashes give the poem, particularly the first line, a rather breathy quality.

         Even the word “Bouquet” has a coquettishness to it. There is the bridal bouquet, of course, but also the second meaning of the word – that of fragrance. The would-be-lover poet is presenting herself as alluring, enticing the bee with her fragrant nectar.

I do read this poem, however, as a cover note for flowers intended for a man’s wife. Let’s say that she sent this to Samuel Bowle’s along with a bouquet intended for his wife Mary. Dickinson did in fact write over fifty letters to Mary although her heart was all for Samuel. I doubt if he missed the message. I doubt if Mary did, if she read it.

1 comment:

  1. While ED’s relationship with Bowles probably did include “a bit of a sexy tease”. He was charming when he wanted to be, as was ED. During the late 1870s, she lured a marriage proposal out of a retired and recently widowed Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice, Otis Lord, only to dash his hopes with “Dont you know you are happiest while I withhold and not confer - dont you know that "No" is the wildest word we consign to Language?” (L562, 1878).

    She, no doubt, had a similar “fun” relationship with Samuel Bowles, but she probably never felt the serious love that she felt for Wadsworth. And Bowles certainly never felt that for her, finding her company pleasant in small quantities.