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28 September 2014

But little Carmine hath her face —

But little Carmine hath her face —
Of Emerald scant — her Gown —
Her Beauty — is the love she doth —
Itself — exhibit — mine —
                                                                F566 (1863)  J558

This short poem seems a graceful note to accompany a flower to a friend. It might be a single rosebud or a tulip as neither would yet show the full carmine red of their petals. The scantiness of the emerald gown suggests that there is only a leaf or two on the flower stalk. But sometimes less is more. Besides, the true beauty of the flower is the love with which it is presented. The poet is clothing the blossom with her love and that will make up for any lack of carmine or foliage.


  1. This poem and commentary brings me to a point I often wonder about in her poetry and literary commentary: How the heck did ED (or anyone) send flowers with their correspondence in the 19th century. I can understand that for her correspondents in Amherst she would use the family retainers as messengers to make the deliver with flowers, candy or fruit, however, she sent flowers with letters and poems to her Norcross cousins in Boston and Mary Bowles in Springfield, to name but two.
    It was a lovely custom for sure, but how did it work out strategically before FTD?
    And thank you again for this great blog. I come to it every few days if not overwhelmed by work or other obligations. I happen to be in Amherst now for the long weekend and browsed for new books of literary criticism but to date have not found one that helps so much with ED poetry as your straight forward, knowledgable and insightful commentary. Some of the literary critics go off on tangents which IMHO are a waste of time. I don't care whether ED's mother was wall-eyed and didn't gaze directly into the face of her young poet as a baby. I cannot take that kind of interpretation seriously as it is too highly speculative to begin with and irrelevant in the long run. Anyway in digressing I am getting to far from my initial query.

    Just how did Victorians such as ED accomplish the delivery of flowers from their gardens to accompany correspondence?
    Lee Silverwood

  2. I expect the flowers were delivered by family and friends. Flowers keep several days in water. There was a train to Boston -- ED's father was instrumental in that project and ED wrote at least one poem about it ("I like to see it lap the miles").

  3. Franklin Work Metadata (1998), 'But little Carmine hath her face —'


    Two, variant, about 1863. A fair copy, addressed "Miss Whitney" on the outer fold and signed "Emily," was apparently sent to Maria Whitney, perhaps while she was visiting Susan Dickinson, in whose possession it remained. The manuscript, not among those Maria Whitney turned over to Mabel Todd for copying in the 1890s, passed into other hands and on 8 December 1989 was auctioned at Christie's, New York, as part of the estate of Gertrude B. Oresman.