Monday, July 26, 2010

~~~Emily Dickinson Poem A Day Plus~~~"All these my banners be." 22/1775

All these my banners be.
I sow my pageantry
In May —
It rises train by train —
Then sleeps in state again —
My chancel — all the plain

To lose — if one can find again —
To miss — if one shall meet —
The Burglar cannot rob — then —
The Broker cannot cheat.
So build the hillocks gaily
Thou little spade of mine
Leaving nooks for Daisy
And for Columbine —
You and I the secret
Of the Crocus know —
Let us chant it softly —
"There is no more snow!"

To him who keeps an Orchis' heart —
The swamps are pink with June.
by Emily Dickinson

Here I believe (you may have another interpretation; please comment below!)Emily is discussing the act of writing poetry.

"All these my banners be.
I sow my pageantry
In May —
It rises train by train —
Then sleeps in state again —
My chancel — all the plain

It is All about flowers for Emily!

If you look at this premise; that this poem is about the art of writing poetry; Emily writing her poetry, then it makes sense. "All these" meaning all of Emily's poetic "offerings" are her "banners" or "scrolls" maybe heaven unfurled from above inspiration. As a farmer (most in the 1800's were farmers, Emily an inspired Botanist, etc.). Emily sows her "pageantry". The word pageantry is interesting here, maybe the flowers are the pageantry as well! Four flowers are mentioned in this poem, daisy, columbine, crocus and orchis (orchid). So this is what is meant by "Flowery Verse". Hahah! I get it!

"pag·eant (pjnt)
1. An elaborate public dramatic presentation that usually depicts a historical or traditional event.
2. A spectacular procession or celebration.
3. Colorful showy display; pageantry or pomp."
[Middle English pagin, pagent, moveable stage for a mystery play, mystery play, alteration of Medieval Latin pgina, probably from Latin, page; see pag- in Indo-European roots."

Since Emily is "sowing" her pageantry in May like a seed, where it "rises" or grows like a seedling, we understand this imagery of the spring budding of a flower or plant.

Now what about it "rises train by train"? What is meant by this line? Well we know contrain is a verse used and made popular by Nostradamus, for example. So little by little this poetry takes form, in the "con'train' verse of Emily's. Notice the pun-like take on train here. Also Emily in the next line refers to a Presidential train, the Americana bit of trivia whereby famous deceased are paraded (or pageanted?sp?wd?)
through the country on a train. Train could be the months that go by while the flowers seeds "sleep". Dream train perhaps?

I believe the famous President Abe Lincoln, a contemporary of Ms Emily's did have his coffin aboard a famous train (called? check this later). Here again, Emily's and most of her time had a preoccupation with death as it was all around them, people, great masses dying like flies at times. So we see this preoccupation as a part of Emily's world and mindset and the mindset of the Victorian age. For example please not mourning rites, etc of the Victorians. Most amazing eye-opener here!

"and then lies in state again" or becomes dormant after the flowering of verse; a rest. Like music here. Again referring to the presidential funerary rites, etc. "lies in state". We all know this reference.

"My chancel all the plain today". Chancel is part of the architecture of a church; it is defined below. It is part of the altar. Where flowers are placed, I believe, or where candles are lit and flowers are placed for the dead, usually. Correct me if I am incorrect. Thanks! "all the plain today". Emily must consider herself "plain" which was, with her Puritan background, an ideal way to be. A plain person, like the Mennonites (German) or the Amish (Dutch) did not fixate on the ornate which was "sinful".


"To lose — if one can find again —
To miss — if one shall meet —
The Burglar cannot rob — then —
The Broker cannot cheat."

I think here Emily is feeling lonely, the "lose" or loss of a loved one, maybe even unrequitted love, possibly from Sue Gilbert or her brother Will. I think it may have been one of two suitors which Emily had never completely meshed with, or married, but had, due to her obsessive poetic offerings, suggests. Emily does feel cheated in love I believe thus the "burglar" reference. Had Emily been cheated by a "broker"? Now that would be an interesting study for the historians out in the blogosphere! Where you'd find this would probably be a trip to Amherst College archives. Good luck!

"So build the hillocks gaily
Thou little spade of mine
Leaving nooks for Daisy
And for Columbine —"

In the above Stanzas Emily is enpowering herself from her unrequitted slump of the previous stanza, where she was most mournful of loss of love or person. Here Emily is busy working the earth with her poetry, planting more "seeds" hoping to grow more...need we say..."Love"? And for Emily love is found in the earth and the products grown from the earth like the "Daisy" (notice the capitalization here, I am sure "Daisy" is her friend, and "Columbine". Could Emily be talking in code here? Let's see what these flowers may represent other than just being simple flowers.

"dai·sy (dz)
n. pl. dai·sies
1. Any of several plants of the composite family, especially a widely naturalized Eurasian plant (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) having flower heads with a yellow center and white rays. Also called oxeye daisy, white daisy.
2. A low-growing European plant (Bellis perennis) having flower heads with pink or white rays. Also called English daisy.
3. The flower head of any of these plants.
4. Slang One that is deemed excellent or notable."
[Middle English daisie, from Old English dæges age : dæges, genitive of dæg, day; see agh- in Indo-European roots + age, eye; see okw- in Indo-European roots."

"col·um·bine (klm-bn)
Any of various perennial herbs of the genus Aquilegia native to north temperate regions, cultivated for their showy, variously colored flowers that have petals with long hollow spurs. Also called aquilegia.
[Middle English, from Medieval Latin columbna, from feminine of Latin columbnus, dovelike (from the resemblance of the inverted flower to a cluster of doves), from columba, dove.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company." All rights reserved."

So we see some other possible connotation to the flowers. A daisy's slang reference is "one that is deemed excellent or notable". Emily did see herself as an excellent person of note, even though she was not recognized during her day. (see previous Poem A Day for the earlier poem reference to Emily's critics.) The columbine also has a very spiritual significance as "doves". Emily sees herself as the Pentecost dove or Spirit of God descending on people's heads. This reference also gives further credence to Emily as Christ figure. Whether or not deliberate, I think so, many poets, writers had taken on this mantle of servitude. Emily is serving people, in her mind, with her poetry because it is from her pure Spirit, and it blesses those that read it. There is some healing going on in these flower references too, maybe from a herbology point of view as well. the plants definitely have special significance to Emily and their appearance in her poems is not an accident.

"You and I the secret
Of the Crocus know —
Let us chant it softly —
"There is no more snow!"

Emily is referring to the Crocus in the stanza above as being the first flower of spring that valiantly pokes through the cold snow and survives in all it's beauty. Here, Emily is chanting like a child "There is no more snow". Emily has shown her disdain of cold, and snow in a previous poem so I wonder if there is abit of mockery here. Who doesn't like summer? Winters always being harsh to the Victorians who relied on a good wood supply to keep warm in their uninsulated Victorian homes.

"To him who keeps an Orchis' heart —
The swamps are pink with June."
by Emily Dickinson

"orchis [ˈɔːkɪs]n.
1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Plants) any terrestrial orchid of the N temperate genus Orchis, having fleshy tubers and spikes of typically pink flowers
2. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Plants) any of various temperate or tropical orchids of the genus Habenaria, such as the fringed orchis
[via Latin from Greek orkhis testicle; so called from the shape of its roots]"

After receiving an orchid for my birthday, I have found how fussy and high maintenance they are to get them to flower each spring. I guess there are some hormones, etc to buy. I have to read more regarding their proper maintenance, etc. I have noticed a small leave coming through the middle so, maybe, some more beautiful orchid flowers. I found it strange that it is referred to as a "testicle" as an orchid looks like something completely different as per Georgia O'Keefe's works.
Tomato/Tomato..whatever! To each his own I suppose! We can see that this reference to an orchid in the Emily poem is about the fragility of life and the way this fragility is victorious over so many things that can harm us, because we build up or plant something to grow (like the Spirit) we are rich during the harvest time.

The last two line verse is a positive take on those who grow Orchids, however Orchids is spelled "Orchis" so now I will look up a possible Greek analogous name. No this is the Latin genus of an Orchid, no connection to a Greek god here, unless someone has found something different? We'll hold our breath on this one!
Maybe Emily grew indoor Orchids, in her greenhouse? It sure sounds like it. An Orchis' heart to me would be a tender, kind heart, which means they will survive and thrive the swamps of life and come back "pink" to life in June. I love the flower to human analogy here. Quite stunning, and soothing to the soul, actually!

Chiccorealo's take on Ms Emily today!

Every Word of Em's like Majestic Pagaentry:
Bespoken no longer broken

How the unfurling from the Heav'ns
Seem to evoke us to plant
To bring forth words that enliven
and keep us free to survive
another last winter
when all died of the bout
with the flowers strength
Notably some like Emily
Will Live On
(and on!)


In architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building. ...

What image is the heart of this poem? Planting of flowers (spiritual gifts). Need a pic (free pic) on planting please Mr. Google!



  1. i particularly love the ochis' stanza...a wonderful breakdown of the poem...and i like your take on it...we each are given gifts, we either plant or we horde...and what lays in the sotrehouse rots...

  2. Deceptively simple... or simply deceptive? Oh, that Emily D.!

  3. Oh it took a day but I got it! "the swamps are pink with June". The flowers in the swamps! Orchids grow in swamps! I did not see this at first. Emily is a multiple-read I feel to get all the nuggets. Over my head!

    @Brian Thanks! Plant Love. Or horde Love? Plant, definitely!

    @Vicki Thinking Emily has thought out things quite abit so maybe mostly the first Deceptively simple her poetry, but then maybe if she is using "code" or hidden meanings behind the objects, as per allegory, etc for what? Emily a spy? Or Emily, like Barney the dinosaur a subversive? One may never know. Wonders how political Emily's poetry in "hushed" Paul Revere tones, now that has been done undoubtly. But fun to figure out if this may be another undercurrent theme in Emily's work. Subtle if it is true!