Emily Dickinson, “I hide myself within my flower” (903)

“I hide myself within my flower…” (903)
Emily Dickinson

I hide myself within my flower,
That fading from your Vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me –
Almost a loneliness.


This poem actually was sent with a flower as a gift of sorts. What sort of gift was it? “I hide myself,” “my flower,” “fading,” “unsuspecting,” “loneliness:” the basis for sympathy here is elusive. It is not clear the audience relates to the speaker at all; the flower and Vase, at the very least, are separated in the text.

One could say the revelation of self occurs over time only. The immediate problem with that revelation is that it seems to make the flower a memento mori, nothing more. “Almost a loneliness” becomes horribly cynical on such a reading: it isn’t quite loneliness, because in death we are all united.

So perhaps time alone is not the key to the puzzle. “I” disappears in the second line as it is hiding, appropriately enough. “I” was accompanied initially by “myself.” In the “fading,” something unsuspected happens: “you” and “me” emerge, with feeling. The flower’s fading evokes feeling, either because all flowers are given with a feeling, or because this particular flower was given with a very specific expressed sentiment. Either way, “I” looks more like “you” and “me” combined. The grammar deserves extended comment: “unsuspecting” parallels “fading;” “I hide myself” parallels “you feel… for me.”

So why “almost a loneliness?” The self is perpetually reconstructed in the eyes of another. There is death in the poem, but in the sense that we’re not always present. The crucial aspect of flowers is how they’re like words: their presence is temporal, and the difference between meaningful words and not-so-meaningful ones is in the hiding. It is rare one feels immediately because of something said. It is that we have to reflect on, unpack, that conveys feeling. On this reading, the Vase can said to be the heart, and the truest blooming lies implicit.


  1. a memento mori indeed. Nothing more than a fading memory. I love garage sale hunting for old poems and literary masterpieces and I love flowers. This poem reminds us that we are just like the flower, beautiful and lovely but in the end fleeting, lonely and fading away..
    .-= Cowvin´s last blog ..Dealing with Difficult Hosts =-.

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