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01 July 2013

My Garden — like the Beach —

My Garden — like the Beach —
Denotes there be — a Sea —
That's Summer —
Such as These — the Pearls
She fetches — such as Me

                                                                F469 (1862)  J484

It seems likely that Dickinson penned this small, elegant poem to accompany some flowers sent to a friend. It's a simple poem, containing only a simile of her garden likened to the beach and the garden's flowers to the sea's pearls. And just as a beach implies a sea, so her flowering garden implies summer.
         The garden is decidedly hers: "My Garden" are the words that begin the poem. The word that closes it is "Me." The poet is emblematic of summer just as her flowers are. It's charming. Summer not only calls forth the flowers, it also "fetches" the poet. Since "Me" is the last word, the idea or image of Emily Dickinson tending her garden lingers in the reader's mind.
         Cycles and seasons are very much integral to Dickinson's poetic expression. Her sense of spacetime is vast, her engagement with the seasons granular. On winter walks I am often intoning "There's a certain slant of light / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes" (F320). I like the way she limned autumn as "A few prosaic days / A little this side of the snow / And that side of the Haze" (F123). In the bitter-sweetness of Spring captured in "I Dreaded that first Robin, so" (F347), Dickinson is followed by T.S. Eliot's famous "April is the Cruelest Month, and Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" where "April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."
The Homestead where a portion of Dickinson's
garden is still maintained
       As for summer, who can forget "I taste a liquor never brewed" (F207) where the poet is "Reeling – through endless summer days – / From inns of molten Blue." Also memorable for the languid grandeur of a full summer day is F104:

A something in a summer's Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

But perhaps my favorite of her summer lines are the last two stanzas of "These are the days when Birds come back" (F122):

Oh sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join.
 Thy sacred emblems to partake—
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

Ah yes. It is late June as I write. "Immortal wine" indeed.


  1. What a beautiful little poem! I love the "ee" sounds and the interplay of the images -- ending with the poet cast up along with her flowers into her garden -- like a pearl.

    1. I hadn't noticed the "ee" sounds until you pointed them out – seven in six lines. Nice! I also just noticed how "fetched" is the only verb of note other than the rather prosaic "Denotes." The Garden denotes; Summer, like an eager friend, fetches.

  2. In one bouquet and six short lines, she sent garden pearls and her pearl self, for then and for eternity. Thanks, ED, wherever you are.