“Be Mine the Doom” (845)
Be Mine the Doom –
Sufficient Fame –
To perish in Her Hand!
The speaker sounds like a flower that has been plucked; the sexuality of the poem is perhaps too obvious. But “Her Hand?”
“Doom,” “Fame,” “perish:” with “Doom” (fate) and “perish” this poem seems to have Biblical weight. It moves from “Doom” to “perish,” however, and “the Doom” contrasts with the infinitive “to perish” both in terms of its finitude and capitalization. This is in addition to a supposed contrast between “Mine” and “Her” that may be developing over the space of these 11 words. A quick google search reveals an awful lot of Bible verses that begin “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” or some such thing. I think it is safe to say that “Be Mine the Doom” is a statement of Biblical certainty. It sounds like noble resignation at the least, or more likely a lament.
“Sufficient Fame” is the bridge between the two other lines of the poem. It is the Doom, and one wonders if Dickinson is alluding to flowers being plucked. It is conceivable some “gentleman” used the speaker and another girl and now has ditched one for the other. All that’s left for the former girl is ill-repute. “Sufficient” is what is so curious: did one have to be “plucked” to have some self-esteem? Perhaps 19th c. America was more like Jersey Shore than I realize.
But “Sufficient Fame” is probably also a reference to the theme of Dickinson as poet, which shows up not infrequently in her work. I sometimes like to take “Fame” as the issue of self-knowledge, and that identification will work here: shame, as in a blush, is a very public display of the most private matters. Those matters may be so private that one may not always realize why one is blushing at times. And yes, this implies that “Fame” could involve only one person. Someone could say something that made you blush, and no one else noticed but you.
Which is why I think – despite the sexuality of the poem, and the intensity of feeling that brings – “Her Hand” is the speaker’s. The distance between “Mine” and “Her” is created by “Sufficient Fame:” who caused the perishing, exactly? Who put you in the situation where you felt known, exposed? It’s possible for the “plucking” to be entirely imaginary, and we note that loss of innocence has nothing to do with actually going out and doing something wrong. In Christian terms, we are accountable for adultery just by looking at someone a little bit too long. The poet’s quest for “sufficient fame” has her thinking the unthinkable; the poem now has the feel of a dark joke, and I think for a first read, that will suffice for now.