How many times these low feet staggered--
Only the soldered mouth can tell--
Try-- can you stir the awful rivet--
Try-- can you lift the hasps of steel!

Stroke the cool forehead-- hot so often--
Lift-- if you care-- the listless hair--
Handle the admantine fingers
Never a thimble-- more-- shall wear--

Buzz the dull flies-- on the chamber window--
Brave-- shines the sun through the freckled pane--
Fearless-- the cobweb swings from the cieling--
Indolent housewife-- in Daisies-- lain!

c. 1860 1890


I’m wife-- I’ve finished that--
That other state--
I’m Czar-- I’m “Woman” now--
It’s safer so--

How odd the Girl’s life looks
Behind this soft Eclipse--
I think that Earth feels so 
To folks in Heaven-- now--

This being comfort-- then
That other kind-- was pain--
But why compare?
I’m “Wife”! Stop there!

c.1860 1890


I taste a liquor never brewed--
From Tankards scooped in Pearl--
Not all the vats upon the Rhine
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of Air-- am I--
And Debauchee of Dew--
Reeling-- thro endless summer days--
From inns of Molten Blue--

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door--
When Butterflies-- renounce their “drams”--
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats--
And Saints-- to windows run--
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the-- Sun--

c.1860 1861


Safe in their Alabaster Chambers--
Untouched by Morning
And untouched by Noon--
Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection--
Rafter of Satin,
And Roof of Stone.

Light laughs the breeze
In her Castle above them--
Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,
Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence--
Ah, what sagacity perished here!

version of 1859 1862

Safe in their Alabaster Chambers--
Untouched by Morning--
And untouched by Noon--
Lie the meek members of the Resurrection--
Rafter of Satin-- and Roof of Stone!

Grand go the Years-- in the Crescent-- above them--
Worlds scoop their Arcs--
And Firmaments-- row--
Diadems-- drop-- and Doges-- surrender--
Soundless as dots-- on a Disc of Snow--

version of 1861 1890


I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it’s true--
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a throe--

The Eyes glaze once-- and that is Death--
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anquish strung.

c. 1861 1890

Wild Nights-- Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile-- the Winds--
To a Heart in port--
Done with the Compass--
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden--
Ah, the Sea!
Might I but moor-- Tonight--
In Thee!

c.1861 1891 


There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes--

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are--

None may teach it-- Any--
‘Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air--

When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows-- hold their breath--
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death--

c. 1861 1890


I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading-- treading-- till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through--

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum--
Kept beating-- beating-- till I thought
My Mind was going numb--

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space-- began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here--

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down--
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing-- then--

c. 1861 1896


I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you-- Nobody-- Too?
Then there’s a pair of us?
Don’t tell! they’d advertise-- you know!

How dreary-- to be-- Somebody!
How public-- like a Frog--
To tell one’s name-- the livelong June--
To an admiring Bog!

c.1861 1891


The Soul selects her own Society--
Then-- shuts the Door--
To her divine Majority--
Present no more--

Unmoved-- she notes the Chariots-- pausing--
At her low Gate--
Unmoved-- an Emporer be kneeling
Upon her Mat--

I’ve known her-- from an ample nation--
Choose One--
Then-- close the Valves of her attention--
Like Stone--

c. 1862 1890

A Bird came down the Walk--
He did not know I saw--
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass--
And then he hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass--

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around-
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought--
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home--

Then Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam--
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.

c.1862 1891


After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought--
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--

This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First-- Chill-- then Stupor-- then the letting go--

c.1862 1929


This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to me--
The simple News that Nature Told--
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see--
For love of Her-- Sweet-- countrymen--
Judge tenderly-- of Me

c. 1862 1890


I died for Beauty-- but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room--

He questioned softly “Why I failed”?
“For Beauty”, I replied--
And I-- for Truth-- Themself are One--
We Brethren, are”, He said--

And so, as Kinsmen, met a night--
We talked between the Rooms--
Until the Moss had reached our lips--
And covered up-- our names--

c.1862 1890


I heard a Fly buzz-- when I died--
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air--
Between the Heaves of Storm--

The Eyes around- had wrung them dry--
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset-- when the King
Be witnessed-- in the Room--

I willed my Keepsakes-- Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable-- and then it was
There interposed a Fly--

With Blue-- uncertain stumbling Buzz--
Between the light-- and me--
And then the Windows failed-- and then
I could not see to see--

c.1862 1896


This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond--
Invisible, as Music--
But positive, as Sound--
It beckons, and it baffles--
Philosophy-- dont know--
And through a Riddle, at the last--
Sagacity, must go--
To guess it, puzzles scholars--
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
An Crucifixion, shown--
Faith slips-- and laughs, and rallies--
Blushes, if any see--
Plucks at a twig of Evidence--
And asks a Vane, the way
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit--
Strong Hallelujahs roll--
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul--

c. 1862 1896


It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down--
It was not night, for all the bells
Put out their tongues, for Noon.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Sciroccos-- crawl--
Not Fire-- for just my Marble feet
Cold keep a Chancel, cool--

And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial,
Reminded me, of mine--

As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And ‘twas like Midnight, some--

When everything that ticked-- has stopped--
And Space stares all around--
Or Grisly frosts-- first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground--

But, most, like Chaos-- Stopless-- cool--
Without a Chance, or Spar--
Or even a Report of Land--
To justify-- Despair.

c. 1862 1891


Mine-- by the Right of the White Election!
Mine-- by the Royal Seal!
Mine-- by the Sign in the Scarlet prison--
Bars-- cannot conceal!

Mine-- here-- in Vision-- and in Veto!
Mine-- by the Grave’s Repeal--
Titled-- Confirmed--
Delerious Charter!
Mine-- long as Ages steal!
c.1862 1890


The Heart asks Pleasure- first--
And then-- Excuse from Pain--
And then-- those little Anodynes
That deaden suffering--

And then-- to go to sleep--
And then-- if it should be
The will of it’s Inquisitor
The privilege to die--

c. 1862 1890


I’ve seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room--
In search of Something-- as it seemed--
Then Cloudier become--
And then-- obscure with Fog--
And then-- be soldered down
Without disclosing what it be
Twere blessed to have seen--

c.1862 1890


The Brain-- is wider than the Sky--
For-- put them side to side--
The one the other will contain
With ease-- and You-- beside--

The Brain is deeper than the sea--
For-- hold them-- Blue to Blue--
The one the other will absorb--
As Sponges-- Buckets-- do--

The Brain is just the Weight of God--
For-- Heft them-- Pound for Pound--
And they will differ-- if they do--
As Syllable from Sound--

c.1862 1896


Pain-- has an Element of Blank--
It cannot recollect
When it begun-- or if there were
A time when it was not--

It has no Future-- but itself--
It’s Infinite contain
It’s Past-- enlightened to perceive
New Periods-- of Pain.

c.1862 1890


Because I could not stop for Death--
He kindly stopped for me--
The Carriage held but just Ourselves--
And Immortality.

We slowly drove-- He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility--

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess-- in the Ring--
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain--
We passed the Setting Sun--

Or rather-- He passed Us--
The Dews drew Quivering and chill--
For only Gossamer, my Gown--
My Tippet-- only Tulle--

We paused before a House that seemed
A Sweling of the Ground--
The Roof was scarcely visible--
The Cornice-- in the Ground--

Since then-- ‘tis Centuries-- and yet
Feels shortert than the Day
I first surmised the Horses Heads
Were toward Eternity--

c.1863 1890


She rose to His Requirement-- dropt
The Playthings of Her Life
To take the honorable Work
Of Woman, and of Wife--

If ought She missed in Her new Day,
Of Amplitude, or Awe--
Or first Prospective-- Or the Gold
In using, wear away,

It lay unmentioned-- as the Sea
Develope Pearl, and Weed,
But only to Himself-- be known
The Fathoms they abide--

c.1863 1890


Remorse-- is Memory-- awake--
Her Parties all astir--
A Presence of Departed Acts--
At window-- and at Door--

It’s past-- set down before the Soul
And lighted with a Match--
Perusal-- to facilitate--
And help Belief to stretch--

Remorse is cureless-- the Disease
Not even God-- can heal--
For ‘tis His institution-- and
The Adequate of Hell--

c.1862 1891


Ample make this Bed--
Make this Bed with Awe--
In it wait till Judgement break
Excellent and Fair.

Be it’s Mattress straight--
Be its pillow round--
Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
Interrupt this Ground--

c.1864 1891


The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth--

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity.

c.1866 1890


As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away--
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy--

A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon--
The Dusk drew earlier in--
The Morning foreign shone--
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone--
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

c.1865 1891


There came a Wind like a Bugle--
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost--
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
That very instant passed--
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that live-- that Day--
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told--
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

c.1883 1891


My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

No Ms. 1896