Emily Dickinson, “So has a Daisy vanished” (28)

Reading could result in greater awareness of the world, but there are at least two potential pitfalls in that assertion. First, there have been many times I read a ton, thought myself the expert, and promptly embarrassed myself with a combination of nervous rambling AND a lack of understanding. The written word entails responsibility, but that responsibility is not simply preaching it. The second is a practiced oversensitivity. Read poetry, for example, and you start seeing things that weren’t there before. Trees aren’t just things you might accidentally hit with a car. Some of them call to mind ones climbed in childhood, or those near grandma’s house. Maybe they connect to places for making-out or breaking-up, or those long, shadowy creatures wading between life and non-life in a van Gogh painting. Too much association, it seems, also overwhelms. I wonder about Dickinson purposefully indulging that oversensitivity below—what, exactly, is her intent?

So has a Daisy vanished (28)
Emily Dickinson

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?

So has a Daisy vanished / From the fields today — / So tiptoed many a slipper / To Paradise away — there is a perfectly conventional reading of these lines. Just as many quietly die and pass unnoticed, so daisies vanish from the field. However—or better yet, duh—Dickinson doesn’t want us to go this route. She started with daisies vanishing, as if she went to the fields every day, kept a list accounting for every single daisy, and is now wrestling with what the loss of one flower means.

Dickinson’s narrator, emotionally overwhelmed, makes a grand and incontestable statement. The quiet loss of one is an every day occurrence. She lets this comprise the entire first stanza. There’s not much more to be said because there are too many emotions involved. Is this grief over the loss of a loved one? Worry that she herself won’t be remembered? A panic that she’s wasting the best of her life? If the dead are lost peacefully, perceived in bloom, are they in Paradise? “Tiptoed” and “slipper,” implying death is sleep, hint that what’s specifically on her mind is passing too quietly.

She becomes more emphatic, questioning the association of bliss and peace with quiet. What exactly is entailed in “Paradise?” Maybe it’s the end of a time, if not time. Oozed so in crimson bubbles / Day’s departing tide — time reveals itself an ocean, rich in purples and reds as it runs away. She looks at what most would render the loveliest of skies and only sees loss and pain. Pain, though, ends this dark vision. She has to leave it be, let it stay a morbid question. Blooming — tripping — flowing: the daisies and the darkening sky correspond to “blooming” and “flowing,” respectively. “Tripping” is almost comic, but one can imagine a person with tearful eyes not being able to walk steadily. What pulls us away from dwelling on life as essentially tragic is our everyday pain and inconvenience. In order to have grand thoughts about the whole, comic or tragic, we usually need a certain security. Dickinson’s speaker doesn’t completely have this and is exposed. Experiencing the truth, she can articulate a question that rings true: Are ye then with God? Is our individual pain, rendered universal and cosmic, unity with the divine?

That last question needs clarification, as the second stanza seems to clash with the first. Tiptoeing quietly into an afterlife hints at painlessness, not just silence. The second stanza’s “tripping,” though, does not just articulate the speaker’s voice but the truth of death. Only very few accepted death quietly, and we can assume that there were internal voices much louder than anything we witnessed. It’s safe to say everyone experiences pain, and that Dickinson doesn’t think quietism or stoicism is worthy to explicitly debunk. She sets her aim higher: if time is only comprised of our bruises and cuts and pains, if growth only exists to be torn down, what of divinity? It cannot be divine to have a superhuman reticence, to merely accept this state of affairs. The premises need to be rethought. “So has a Daisy vanished” brings us back to daisies, what we valued in bloom. Something is divine, earthly, and painful to let go. Something can speak itself in messy, human terms, and is appreciated on those terms alone.

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