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Dickinson poems

SUCCESS is counted sweetest

By those who ne’er succeed.

To comprehend a nectar

Requires sorest need.


Not one of all the purple host

Who took the flag to-day

Can tell the definition,

So clear, of victory,


As he, defeated, dying,

On whose forbidden ear

The distant strains of triumph

Break, agonized and clear.


THE SOUL selects her own society,

Then shuts the door;

On her divine majority

Obtrude no more.


Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing 

At her low gate;

Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling

Upon her mat.


I’ve known her from an ample nation

Choose one;

Then close the valves of her attention

Like stone.


I ’M nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there’s a pair of us—don’t tell!

They’d banish us, you know.


How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!


HOPE is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.


A WORD is dead

When it is said,

Some say.


I say it just

Begins to live

That day.


THERE is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page

Of prancing poetry.


This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot

That bears a human soul!


A NARROW fellow in the grass

Occasionally rides;

You may have met him,—did you not?

His notice sudden is.


The grass divides as with a comb,

A spotted shaft is seen;

And then it closes at your feet

And opens further on.


He likes a boggy acre,

A floor too cool for corn.

Yet when a child, and barefoot,

I more than once, at morn,


Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash

Unbraiding in the sun,—

When, stooping to secure it,

It wrinkled, and was gone.


Several of nature’s people

I know, and they know me;

I feel for them a transport

Of cordiality;


But never met this fellow,

Attended or alone,

Without a tighter breathing,

And zero at the bone.


SHE sweeps with many-colored brooms,

And leaves the shreds behind;

Oh, housewife in the evening west,

Come back, and dust the pond!


You dropped a purple ravelling in,

You dropped an amber thread;

And now you’ve littered all the East

With duds of emerald!


And still she plies her spotted brooms,

And still the aprons fly,

Till brooms fade softly into stars—

And then I come away.


SOME keep the Sabbath going to church;

I keep it staying at home,

With a bobolink for a chorister,

And an orchard for a dome.


Some keep the Sabbath in surplice;

I just wear my wings,

And instead of tolling the bell for church,

Our little sexton sings.


God preaches,—a noted clergyman,—

And the sermon is never long;

So instead of getting to heaven at last,

I ’m going all along!


I ’LL tell you how the sun rose,—

A ribbon at a time.

The steeples swam in amethyst,

The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,

The bobolinks begun.

Then I said softly to myself,

“That must have been the sun!”


But how he set, I know not.

There seemed a purple stile

Which little yellow boys and girls

Were climbing all the while


Till when they reached the other side,

A dominie in gray

Put gently up the evening bars,

And led the flock away.



YOU left me, sweet, two legacies,—

A legacy of love

A Heavenly Father would content,

Had He the offer of;


You left me boundaries of pain

Capacious as the sea,

Between eternity and time,

Your consciousness and me.


I NEVER saw a moor,

I never saw the sea;

Yet know I how the heather looks,

And what a wave must be.


I never spoke with God,

Nor visited in heaven;

Yet certain am I of the spot

As if the chart were given.


THE BUSTLE in a house

The morning after death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted upon earth,—


The sweeping up the heart,

And putting love away

We shall not want to use again

Until eternity.




BECAUSE I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.


We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

And I had put away

My labor, and my leisure too,

For his civility.


We passed the school where children played

At wrestling in a ring;

We passed the fields of gazing grain,

We passed the setting sun.


We paused before a house that seemed

A swelling of the ground;

The roof was scarcely visible,

The cornice but a mound.


Since then ’t is centuries; but each

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmised the horses’ heads

Were toward eternity.


GOING to heaven!

I don’t know when,

Pray do not ask me how,—

Indeed, I ’m too astonished

To think of answering you!

Going to heaven!—

How dim it sounds!

And yet it will be done

As sure as flocks go home at night

Unto the shepherd’s arm!


Perhaps you’re going too!

Who knows?

If you should get there first,

Save just a little place for me

Close to the two I lost!

The smallest “robe” will fit me,

And just a bit of “crown”;

For you know we do not mind our dress

When we are going home.


I ’m glad I don’t believe it,

For it would stop my breath,

And I’d like to look a little more

At such a curious earth!

I am glad they did believe it

Whom I have never found

Since the mighty autumn afternoon

I left them in the ground.



SOME, too fragile for winter winds,

The thoughtful grave encloses,—

Tenderly tucking them in from frost

Before their feet are cold.


Never the treasures in her nest

The cautious grave exposes,

Building where schoolboy dare not look

And sportsman is not bold.


This covert have all the children

Early aged, and often cold,—

Sparrows unnoticed by the Father;

Lambs for whom time had not a fold.


SHE died,—this was the way she died;

And when her breath was done,

Took up her simple wardrobe

And started for the sun.


Her little figure at the gate

The angels must have spied,

Since I could never find her

Upon the mortal side.


THIS world is not conclusion;

A sequel stands beyond,

Invisible, as music,

But positive, as sound.


It beckons and it baffles;

Philosophies don’t know,

And through a riddle, at the last,

Sagacity must go.


To guess it puzzles scholars;

To gain it, men have shown

Contempt of generations,

And crucifixion known.


GIVEN in marriage unto thee,

Oh, thou celestial host!

Bride of the Father and the Son,

Bride of the Holy Ghost!


Other betrothal shall dissolve,

Wedlock of will decay;

Only the keeper of this seal

Conquers mortality.


THE GRAVE my little cottage is,

Where, keeping house for thee,

I make my parlor orderly,

And lay the marble tea,


For two divided, briefly,

A cycle, it may be,

Till everlasting life unite

In strong society.


I HEARD a fly buzz when I died;

The stillness round my form

Was like the stillness in the air

Between the heaves of storm.


The eyes beside had wrung them dry,

And breaths were gathering sure

For that last onset, when the king

Be witnessed in his power.


I willed my keepsakes, signed away

What portion of me I

Could make assignable,—and then

There interposed a fly,


With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,

Between the light and me;

And then the windows failed, and then

I could not see to see.


ADRIFT! A little boat adrift!

And night is coming down!

Will no one guide a little boat

Unto the nearest town?


So sailors say, on yesterday,

Just as the dusk was brown,

One little boat gave up its strife,

And gurgled down and down.


But angels say, on yesterday,

Just as the dawn was red,

One little boat o’erspent with gales

Retrimmed its masts, redecked its sails

Exultant, onward sped!


NOT any higher stands the grave

For heroes than for men;

Not any nearer for the child

Than numb three-score and ten.


This latest leisure equal lulls

The beggar and his queen;

Propitiate this democrat

By summer’s gracious mien.


THEY dropped like flakes, they dropped like stars,

Like petals from a rose,

When suddenly across the June

A wind with fingers goes.


They perished in the seamless grass,—

No eye could find the place;

But God on his repealless list

Can summon every face.

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