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08 December 2014

Mute – thy Coronation —

* Note: This is the first of four older poems that I present out of order. In reviewing the blog I realize I had omitted a few. Unfortunately, I don't think the site's architecture allows me to insert the poems where they chronologically go.

Mute  – thy Coronation —
Meek – my Vive le roi,
Fold a tiny courtier
In thine ermine, Sir,
There to rest revering
Till the pageant by,
I can murmur broken,
Master, It was I —
                   F133 (1860)  J151

This poem reflects the meek worshipful voice of the Dickinson who wrote the Master letters and, a year later, refers to herself as her master's "little Hound" and  "little Spaniel" in F237 and F251. Here she is a quiet little thing enjoying the preeminence of her beloved. Her own cheers, Long live the King, are "Meek" as if she didn't want to draw attention to herself. She is completely silent for the "Coronation". She refers to herself as a "tiny courtier" and requests that Master just fold her into his royal ermine somewhere. When all the pageantry is over she can tell him who she is. Among the most pathetic parts of the poem is that when she tells him it will be a "murmur" and she will be "broken". 
Can't you just imagine a tiny poet
tucked into this ermine robe?

     Talk about a mood killer! If Master is about to receive some great honor, or if he has suddenly earned some fame, this little poem would set him back. Who would want such a self-pitying little courtier?

It should be noted, however, that this was a poem written in private and probably not with publication or an audience intended. If we all had our pity-party poems published we would be a humbler people.

On the positive side, I rather like the image of a miniature courtier hiding in the ermine, and I like the way the "Mute", "Meek", and "Fold" begin the first three lines with an effect quite opposite to the pathos of the words. One suspects the poet doth protest too much. It is the "broken" that rather stops the poem cold for me.


  1. Persuasive evidence suggests that ED wrote ‘Mute — thy Coronation (F133)’ about Reverend Charles Wadsworth (1814-1882) and that he was the object of her three ‘Master Letters.

    Thomas H Johnson, ED’s editor and biographer believes “her love for the Reverend Charles Wadsworth may well have been the single most important event in her life. He was a distinguished clergyman, forty-six when she met him, fourteen years married and the head of a family. She could adore him with physical passion in her imagination; she certainly never made demands on him that were other than proper for a minister of the gospel. Her emotion was the more devastating because it was as genuine as it was hopeless.” (Johnson 1955, Emily Dickinson:An Interpretive Biography)

    Approximate Chronology of ‘Mute — thy Coronation (F133)’, the ‘Master Letters’, and The Reverend Charles Wadsworth in ED’s life:

    1855 March 4 – ED, age 24, meets and falls in love with Rev. Wadsworth in Philadelphia
    1858 Spring - ED drafts the first surviving "Master" letter
    1858 - First known ED/Wadsworth correspondence
    1860 March – Rev. Charles Wadsworth visits ED in Amherst.
    1860 Late - ED composes ‘Mute — thy Coronation (F133)’
    1861 Early - ED drafts second surviving "Master" letter
    1861 Summer - ED drafts third surviving "Master" letter
    1862 April - Wadsworth leaves Philadelphia and begins a San Francisco pastorate.
    1880 Aug - Wadsworth moves back to Philadelphia
    1880 Autumn - Wadsworth visits ED in Amherst.
    1882 Apr 1 – Rev. Wadsworth dies.

    Reverend Wadsworth’s response to one ED’s letters shows deep concern for her mental and emotional condition:

    “My Dear Miss Dickenson [sic]

    “I am distressed beyond measure at your note, received this moment, - I can only imagine the affliction which has befallen, or is now befalling you.

    “Believe me, be what it may, you have all my sympathy, and my constant, earnest prayers.

    “I am very, very anxious to learn more definitely of your trial- and though I have no right to intrude upon your sorrow yet I beg you to write me, though it be but a word.

    “In great haste
    Sincerely and most
    Affectionately Yours –“

    1. Thanks -- very interesting. Any speculations about the date -- and to what 'trial' the writer refers?

  2. The manuscript is unsigned and without date, but is in the handwriting of the Reverend Charles Wadsworth, with an embossed crest, “C.W.”

  3. No exact date but the embossed stationary dates from his Philadelphia days before he left for California in 1862.

    "Although scholars have varied widely in dating this note [Wadworth’s note of concern] , some putting it as late as 1877, it cannot have been written after spring 1862, when Wadsworth resigned his Arch Street [Philadelphia] pulpit. His ignorance as to the nature of her trouble, suggests the message dates from the beginning of their correspondence (Habegger, A. 2001.My Wars Are Laid Away in Books).

  4. That new Marta Werner book has a chapter that may as well be titled ‘why people should probably ignore timelines established in t Johnson’s “interpretive biography” wrt the master letters’ jfyi.

  5. she would unlove my reference to the `master letters' -- the `master documents,' they should rightly be called (and I agree). totally fascinatingly she considers this poem and another one (where I must say your reading is so utterly brill), "A Wife - at daybreak - I shall be - ' to be part of the master documents, no less than the three 'letters.' I can see it.