No notice gave She, but a Change–  (F860A J804)

No notice gave she ms p.2

No Notice gave She, but
a Change – 
No Message, but a sigh – 
For Whom, the Time
did not  +suffice 
That she + should specify. 

She was not warm, though
Summer shone 
Nor scrupulous of cold 
Though Rime by Rime, the
steady Frost 
Opon Her +Bosom piled – 

+Of shrinking ways -she
did not fright 
Though all the Village
looked – 
But held Her gravity
aloft – 
And met the gaze – direct –


And when adjusted like
a seed 
In careful fitted Ground 
Unto the Everlasting Spring 
And hindered but a Mound 

Her + Warm return, if
so she + chose – 
And We – imploring drew – 
Removed our invitation by 
As + Some She never
knew – 

+remain     +could     +Petals •
softness    +Forebore her fright
+straight  –  good  –  quick  –
safe   +signed    +Us

Link to EDA manuscript. Originally in Poems: Packet XXX, Fascicle 38, ca. 1863. Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. First published in Unpublished Poem (1935), 124, with the alternative for line 9 adopted.

This poem illustrates Dickinson’s fully spiritual meaning of spring. It describes the death of a woman, who expired almost imperceptibly, “no notice … no message, but a sigh.” In the poem, the dead woman persists through summer and winter. It is not until stanza four that she encounters spring and is transformed. She is “adjusted like a seed / In careful fitted Ground / Unto the Everlasting Spring” and her “warm return” comes with a flurry of variants: “straight,” “good,” “quick,” “safe.” But, in what way is she returned? Is she resurrected? As an elect soul going to Heaven? In the minds and memories of her friends? The last stanza is a study in ambiguity.

In last week’s post, in relation to the death of Frazar Stearns, we discussed Dickinson’s focus on the way of death, a person’s last words, attitude, demeanor as offering a glimpse of the character of immortality.

Mrs. Howes in deep mourning, c. 1860s
Mrs. Howes in deep mourning, c. 1860s

Diana Fuss compares Dickinson’s poetic treatment of these last moments of death to her contemporaries, women poets like Helen Hunt Jackson, Lydia Sigourney and Frances Harper, who all “exploit the personal and political potential of last words to command attention and to provoke response.”Dickinson, she finds, “uses the deathbed address not to claim agency but to relinquish it.” These poems, like “No notice gave She,” emphasize “the radical privacy of death. … Dickinson’s dead protect their secrets.”

Jesse Curran takes a different tack, seeing Dickinson’s allusions to breath (here, the “sigh”) as a sign of her meditative poetics, which Curran links to “recent critical developments in sustainability studies, as well as to the global-ecological theory that underlies its emergence” and focuses on air as the medium connecting us all.

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