To waste my Guinea
On so broad a Heart!
Just to be Poor,
For Barefoot pleasure
You, Sir, shut me out!
A lot hinges on what the word 'just' means here. I can't cram it into the ED Lexicon suggestions of "only', 'nearly', barely', 'almost', or 'precisely'. Instead, I find it works best as a sort of shorthand to deliver the reader as directly as possible to what is crystal clear: the beloved is just not the type to ever return her devotion.
|King George guinea, 1719|
Guineas were not commonly circulated by Dickinson's time but people used the term in regards to luxury items and fees paid to artists and high-status professionals. But spending such a coin on love, at least in this case, is futile. Even metaphorical guineas – love, tenderness, loyalty – would be wasted.
This second lament is harsher than the first. While the guinea was wasted on the beloved, we have no reason to believe it was rejected. Perhaps some connection was established, even if it did not rise to the level of reciprocal love. But in the case of poverty (and the ED Lexicon notes that 'barefoot' meant 'poor' rather than the more romanticized figure of a young woman enjoying the feel of grass beneath her feet as she gathers wildflowers), 'Sir' shuts her out.
There may be more to this poem, however. It is nearly the same as the last stanza of a longer poem Dickinson wrote a year earlier. She sent this shorter version to friend (and possible beloved) Samuel Bowles. The longer one, it seems to me, may well have been written with sometimes-beloved friend (and sister-in-law) Sue in mind.
Here is the longer poem, published by Johnson but not Franklin:
Sweet — You forgot — but I remembered
Every time — for Two —
So that the Sum be never hindered
Through Decay of You —
Say if I erred? Accuse my Farthings —
Blame the little Hand
Happy it be for You — a Beggar's —
Seeking More — to spend —
Just to be Rich — to waste my GuineasJ523 (1862)
On so Best a Heart —
Just to be Poor — for Barefoot Vision
You — Sweet — Shut me out —
In this version it is 'Sweet' that shuts the speaker out. It is 'Sweet' who forgets some important sentimental event, requiring the speaker to remember it for both of them so that the memory is not diminished. The beloved seems to have felt that the speaker is at fault somehow. And so the speaker defensively accuses the beloved of wanting her, a Beggar, to somehow find more to spend. 'More', I take it, would mean more acts of love, more tokens of endearment.
Thus, the third stanza builds on that idea: richly spending love in vain to win a heart closed to poverty.
I read Sue in the longer poem because it reminds me of two earlier poems:
Fr418: "Your Riches – taught me – Poverty": where Sue sweeps into Emily's life "broad as Buenos Ayre – // You drifted your Dominions – / a Different Peru – / And I esteemed all Poverty / For Life's Estate with you – ". Sue here seems in her drenching abundance richer than the mines of Peru and Argentina, whereas the speaker has only the 'names, of Gems' at her disposal. At the end of the poem we see that this treasured woman, this 'Pearl', slipped through the speaker's fingers.