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18 June 2013

We Cover Thee — Sweet Face —

We Cover Thee — Sweet Face —
Not that We tire of Thee —
But that Thyself fatigue of Us —
Remember — as Thou go —
We follow Thee until
Thou notice Us — no more —
And then — reluctant — turn away
To Con Thee o'er and o'er —

And blame the scanty love
We were Content to show —
Augmented — Sweet — a Hundred fold —
If Thou would'st take it — now —

                                                                                 F461 (1862)  J482

In the old days, Dickinson’s days, when people died at home in their beds, a loving hand would lay a cloth or pull a sheet over their face. This poem addresses the departed at the moment when her face is covered: we do not cover your face because we are tired of it. In fact, it is you are more tired of us and life itself. You are ready for the next great adventure that awaits after Life. But please remember that we will stay searching for some sign from you, something to tell us that you are well on your way. That’s all we ask. Then we’ll reluctantly leave and dwell on our memories of you over and over.

            And we’ll also blame ourselves for the “scanty love” we showed. We could have done better. If we could we’d do it a hundred times better.

Isn’t that the way of it still, at so many deaths? The platitudes haven’t changed.


  1. The eighth line sent me to the dictionary. The word "Con" is used here in the sense of commit to memory.

  2. Her tenderness her is so touching.

  3. In two recent poems, F457 & F458, ED suggested that we, including she, die a little each time a significant other cuts us with a sharp remark or behaves coldly by ignoring us. The apparently sweet Stanza 1 lowers our guard and sets us up for the stinging zinger of Stanza 2. My take is that ED intends a guilt trip, delivered or not to Sue. “We” is Sue and “Thee” is ED, who bleeds angry self pity:

    If I (ED) should die you (Sue) would probably mouth platitudes like Stanza 2: “And blame the scanty love / We [You, Sue,] were Content to show — / Augmented — Sweet — a Hundred fold — / If Thou [ED] would'st take it — now —”.

    Sorry, Sue, you’re a day late and a dollar short.