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Emily Dickinson's "So has a Daisy vanished"

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

Introduction and Text of "So has a Daisy vanished"

The speaker, who has a keen ability to observe her natural surroundings, has been moved to wonder about the soul of "a Daisy" and many other "slipper[s]" who have given up their physical encasements of beautiful blooms and glorious green stems and simply vanished. She wonders where they went, as she dramatizes their final days of earthly glory.

So has a Daisy vanished

So has a Daisy vanished
From the fields today —
So tiptoed many a slipper
To Paradise away —

Oozed so in crimson bubbles
Day's departing tide —
Blooming — tripping — flowing
Are ye then with God?

Reading of "So has a Daisy vanished"

Commentary

The speaker in this brief drama wonders if the dead Daisy and other departing plant creatures of the field have gone off to be "with God."

First Stanza: A Flower in Heaven

So has a Daisy vanished
From the fields today —
So tiptoed many a slipper
To Paradise away —

The speaker begins with a statement informing her readers/listeners that a lovely flower has gone, disappeared "from the fields today." She begins with the conjunctive adverb "so," seeming to indicate that she is merely taking up a thought that began somewhere else and at an earlier interval. Then again employing the telling "so," the speaker adds that many other flowers have also tripped off to "Paradise." Along with the lovely "Daisy," the other "slipper[s]" have all gone missing, but the speaker suggests that they have metaphorically died and gone to Heaven. While the "Daisy" has rather generically "vanished," the others have "tiptoed" off "to Paradise."

The speaker is playing with the language of loss, which almost always produces a melancholy in the very sensitive hearts of keen observers. Instead merely dying, the flowers vanish from the fields and tiptoe away. That they all have metaphorically gone on to "Paradise" demonstrates that the faith and courage of the sensitive heart of this keep observer are fully operational. That the speaker allows that these creatures of nature have gone to Heaven or Paradise shows that she has a firm grasp on the existence of the soul as a permanent life force that plants as well as animals possess.

This speaker understands that all life is divinely endowed. The flowers leave behind their physical encasements, but they take their soul encasement and then scurry off to the astral world, from where they will likely return to the Earth or some other planet to continue working out their karma—an eventuality that informs the procedure for the animal kingdom as well.

Second Stanza: To Be with the Divine Creator

Oozed so in crimson bubbles
Day's departing tide —
Blooming — tripping — flowing
Are ye then with God?

While the speaker remains aware that plant life force is as eternal as that of the animal kingdom, she is not so sure about where each individual plant goes after its demise. Thus she wonders if they are "with God." Likely influenced by the Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell, the speaker no doubt wonders if plant behavior while on Earth may require a reckoning that leads to Heaven or Hell. That she asks in the more affirmative mood demonstrates her optimistic sensitivity.

Paramahansa Yogananda has likened life on Earth to vanishing bubbles. He has explained that many deep thinking philosophers, sages, and poets have realized that the things of this world are like bubbles in the ocean; those individual things such as stars, flowers, animals, and people suddenly appear, experience a life only for a brief period of time, and then they disappear as swiftly as they appeared.

In his poem, "Vanishing Bubbles," the great yogi dramatizes that brief earthly sojourn of the myriad life forms, as he unearths the solution for those sensitive minds and hearts that grieve after the loss of those individuals whom they had loved and who yet must vanish like bubbles. And that solution is the simple knowledge that although the physical encasement of each individual has indeed vanished, the soul of each individual continues to exist; therefore, there is no actual vanishing or death.

The speaker in Dickinson's poem is suggesting that she is aware of the eternal, everlasting nature of the soul. After the lovely bloom has been maneuvered into the world on "crimson bubbles," it will live its brief life, prancing about with the breeze, and then with the "departing tide," its day will come to an end, but only for its physical encasement, which it will leave behind. The speaker knows that its soul—its life force—will continue, and she wonders if those souls of all those lovely flowers she has been enjoying will then be "with God." That she would ask hints that she believes the answer is yes.

Emily Dickinson

The famous deguerrotype at age 17

The famous deguerrotype at age 17

Life Sketch of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson remains one of the most fascinating and widely researched poets in America. Much speculation abounds regarding some of the most known facts about her. For example, after the age of seventeen, she remained fairly cloistered in her father's home, rarely moving from the house beyond the front gate. Yet she produced some of the wisest, deepest poetry ever created anywhere at any time.

Regardless of Emily's personal reasons for living nun-like, readers have found much to admire, enjoy, and appreciate about her poems. Though they often baffle upon first encounter, they reward readers mightily who stay with each poem and dig out the nuggets of golden wisdom.

New England Family

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born December 10, 1830, in Amherst, MA, to Edward Dickinson and Emily Norcross Dickinson. Emily was the second child of three: Austin, her older brother who was born April 16, 1829, and Lavinia, her younger sister, born February 28, 1833. Emily died on May 15, 1886.

Emily's New England heritage was strong and included her paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, who was one of the founders of Amherst College. Emily's father was a lawyer and also was elected to and served one term in the state legislature (1837-1839); later between 1852 and 1855, he served one term in the U.S. House of Representative as a representative of Massachusetts.

Education

Emily attended the primary grades in a one room school until being sent to Amherst Academy, which became Amherst College. The school took pride in offering college level course in the sciences from astronomy to zoology. Emily enjoyed school, and her poems testify to the skill with which she mastered her academic lessons.

After her seven year stint at Amherst Academy, Emily then entered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in the fall of 1847. Emily remained at the seminary for only one year. Much speculation has been offered regarding Emily's early departure from formal education, from the atmosphere of religiosity of the school to the simple fact that the seminary offered nothing new for the sharp minded Emily to learn. She seemed quite content to leave in order to stay home. Likely her reclusiveness was beginning, and she felt the need to control her own learning and schedule her own life activities.

As a stay-at-home daughter in 19th century New England, Emily was expected to take on her share of domestic duties, including housework, likely to help prepare said daughters for handling their own homes after marriage. Possibly, Emily was convinced that her life would not be the traditional one of wife, mother, and householder; she has even stated as much: God keep me from what they call households.

Reclusiveness and Religion

In this householder-in-training position, Emily especially disdained the role a host to the many guests that her father's community service required of his family. She found such entertaining mind-boggling, and all that time spent with others meant less time for her own creative efforts. By this time in her life, Emily was discovering the joy of soul-discovery through her art.

Although many have speculated that her dismissal of the current religious metaphor landed her in the atheist camp, Emily's poems testify to a deep spiritual awareness that far exceeds the religious rhetoric of the period. In fact, Emily was likely discovering that her intuition about all things spiritual demonstrated an intellect that far exceeded any of her family's and compatriots' intelligence. Her focus became her poetry—her main interest in life.

Emily's reclusiveness extended to her decision that she could keep the sabbath by staying home instead of attending church services. Her wonderful explication of the decision appears in her poem, "Some keep the Sabbath going to Church":

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.

Publication

Very few of Emily's poems appeared in print during her lifetime. And it was only after her death that her sister Vinnie discovered the bundles of poems, called fascicles, in Emily's room. A total of 1775 individual poems have made their way to publication. The first publications of her works to appear, gathered and edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, a supposed paramour of Emily's brother, and the editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson had been altered to the point of changing the meanings of her poems. The regularization of her technical achievements with grammar and punctuation obliterated the high achievement that the poet had so creatively accomplished.

Readers can thank Thomas H. Johnson, who in the mid 1950s went to work at restoring Emily's poems to their, at least near, original. His doing so restored her many dashes, spacings, and other grammar/mechanical features that earlier editors had "corrected" for the poet—corrections that ultimately resulted in obliteration of the poetic achievement reached by Emily's mystically brilliant talent.

The text I use for commentaries

The text I use for commentaries

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes