Emily Dickinson, “Distance — is not the Realm of Fox” (1155)

Distance — is not the Realm of Fox (1155)
Emily Dickinson

Distance — is not the Realm of Fox
Nor by Relay of Bird
Abated — Distance is
Until thyself, Beloved.


“Relay of Bird” makes immediate sense. We think of carrier pigeons, or the simple arrival (loosing) of birds and their songs. Those may not abate distance, but we do imagine such things as an attempt. But “Realm of Fox?” “Until thyself, Beloved?”

“Realm of Fox” may refer to the hunt. One could think distance a game or a chase. In both “Realm of Fox” and “Relay of Bird” problematic pairs present themselves. A game lacks the seriousness of the hunt. “Realm” is not exclusively about playfulness, but about whether one has a choice about how to proceed. “Relay of Bird” brings forth the tension of whether one is actually communicating with you. Some birds might have been tasked by a lover. Some may be coincidental.

“Realm of Fox” is a place, “Relay” an action. Distance is a limit. It could be another place, but it is literally a stopping point (“until”). As a border, it may not be physical, only temporal. “Until thyself, Beloved” suggests a further possibility. Perhaps it is spiritual. The Beloved as felt is all the distance. It is the only being reached for.

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