It was given to me by the gods (F455A, J454)

It was given to me by
the Gods –
When I was a little Girl –
They give us Presents most –
you know –
When we are new – and small.
I kept it in my Hand –
I never put it down –
I did not dare to eat –
or sleep –
For fear it would be gone –
I heard such words as “Rich” –
When hurrying to school –
From lips at Corners of the Streets –
And wrestled with a smile.
Rich! ‘Twas Myself – was
rich –
To take the name of Gold –
And Gold to own – in solid
Bars –
The Difference – made me
bold –

Link to EDA manuscript. Originally in Packet XXXIV, Fascicle 21, ca. 1862. First published in Bolts of Melody (1945), 83-84, from a transcript of A (a tr360), as four quatrains. Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

This poem was also copied into Fascicle 21 as the last poem in the group, perhaps summing up its themes. It contains, for Dickinson, a rather straightforward narrative of “calling” or “vocation,” to use Puritan religious terms: the speaker receiving her “gift” of genius. She says outright that it is from “the Gods” and so assigns this genius a divine source, something out of her control and beyond human reckoning. But notice the pantheism here: not given by one God or the God, but by a raft of them, as if they are sitting majestically in Olympus, drinking nectar served by their cup bearer, Ganymede.

It is this gift that makes her “different,” and in this instance the speaker embraces her difference, even though it sets her apart. The poem characterizes this difference with the simple adjective: “Rich”–genius as a metaphorical form of wealth. These riches are both metaphorically material—“solid Bars” of gold the speaker owns, and also a description OF the self, “the name” the self takes for itself that she hears whispered by townspeople. In fact, it is the difference that “made me bold,” the speaker discloses; that gave her the strength to pursue her genius. For once, there is little to no ambivalence here, suggested by the exact rhymes of “Gold” and “bold.”

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