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Emily Dickinson's "Baffled for just a day or two"

Emily Dickinson's poems remain a vital part of my poet worldview. They dramatize the human spirit via deep attention to life's details.

Sketch of Emily Dickinson

Introduction and Text of "Baffled for just a day or two"

Depending on who is being described as "baffled" and "embarrassed," the poem reveals a chance "encounter" with some unexpected, but likely not completely unknown entity. Because the location is the speaker's "garden," a flower may be presumed.

But if "garden" refers to the mythological garden of the poet's poetry, as mentioned in the poem, "There is another sky," in which the speaker invites her brother, "Prithee, my brother, / Into my garden come!," the strange, "unexpected Maid," may turn out to be a poem.

Baffled for just a day or two

Baffled for just a day or two —
Embarrassed — not afraid —
Encounter in my garden
An unexpected Maid.

She beckons, and the woods start —
She nods, and all begin —
Surely, such a country
I was never in!

Commentary

Emily Dickinson's metaphysical garden includes many varieties of flowering poems, even those that might have startled her upon first appearance.

First Stanza: Some Stranger in Her Garden Has Appeared

Baffled for just a day or two —
Embarrassed — not afraid —
Encounter in my garden
An unexpected Maid.

The speaker begins with an odd remark, indicating that someone or some entity was confused and perhaps struggling to emerge, as a flower pushing itself up through the soil might do. The entity remained in the situation for only a couple of days. Because of its struggle, which likely looked awkward, it was "embarrassed," but it struggled on without fear.

This event happened in the speaker's garden, where she "encounter[ed]" "an unexpected Maid." The speaker never reveals explicitly who or what this "Maid" is. She leaves it up to the reader to take as much from her riddle/poem as possible. And it is likely that she thinks of this poem as so deeply personal that she will remain blissfully unconcerned even if no one ever grasps her exact reference.

Second Stanza: From Some Hitherto Unvisited Metaphysical Plane

She beckons, and the woods start —
She nods, and all begin —
Surely, such a country
I was never in!

This important "Maid," who has made her appearance, then gestures enticingly, and that coaxing invitation causes the "woods" to begin moving toward her. The "Maid" then "nods" and things begin to happen. What begins to happen, the speaker is not divulging.

The speaker then asserts another odd remark, saying that she "was never" in "such a country." That claim baffles the reader, for surely the speaker cannot be saying she was never in her garden, whether it refers to her literal, physical garden or to her figurative, metaphysical garden.

But ah, knowing Dickinson, how mystically inclined her mind worked, her speaker could, in fact, be exaggerating because after the flower appeared, its beauty was beyond the gardener/speaker's expectations.

Or if the "Maid" is a poem, the speaker is revealing that the poem was so new, fresh, and profound that she feels she has never before encountered such a piece, and therefore it must come from a "country" or place in her mind/soul in which she up to this point, has never visited.

The poem works well on either the physical (Maid as flower) or the metaphysical (Maid as poem), as all great poetry does. And while a reader might choose to accept the physical, readers who choose the metaphysical are likely to become more in tune with the Dickinsonian mind.

Emily Dickinson

The text I use for commentaries

The text I use for commentaries

Questions & Answers

Question: Could we also consider the possibility that the "maid" is the poem's author and consumer. It is the poet composing from a subconscious prompting and discovering later what the poem reveals about the thoughts submerged in the "orchard" ?

Answer: You are free to consider any possibility you want. However, there is no mention of an "orchard" in the poem, and you have placed it in quotation marks, indicating that there is. So already you are off to a false start.

Question: What if the maid was a hallucinogenic mushroom in Emily Dickinson's "Baffled for just a day or two"?

Answer: The poem works its magic on either the physical level—"Maid" as hallucinogenic mushroom—or the metaphysical level—"Maid" as poem— as all great poetry does. And while some literal-minded readers might choose to focus solely on the physical, more enlightened readers, who choose the metaphysical, are better able to tune with the Dickinsonian mind.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes