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Fresher than dawn...


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Papers of Susan Dickinson, Brown University Libraries


H bMS Am 1118.95, Box 9

C 1884?. This draft of a poem and these notes are on verso of typescript for "Irony."

Either an early draft or an experiment; Susan's handwriting is less stylized than her fair copy mss. A stichic that collapses two quatrains of even rhyme (xaxa; somewhat slanted)which Susan may have intended to break into stanzas in later drafts; form similar to "I'm waiting but she comes not back".

Formal pattern alternates between longer and shorter lines, the longest of which exceeds the rare "fourteener" at sixteen syllables and is singular in the known corpus. The meter is irregular and its music rather awkward at times; she may have edited into a ballad-hymn meter in later revision, though there is no evidence of that here. Though printed analogs for the form would be rare, it does mirror Emily's occasional quatrain collapse in later poems of the 1870's and ‘80s, practices Susan would have been very familiar with as several of these were sent to her and likely many more seen: see "How destitute is he" (J1477; c. 1879) which Susan prepared in typescript from a fair copy Emily sent her. Like Susan's, Emily's has eight lines of even rhyme, though lines are metrically much shorter, alternating between trimeter and the very unusual dimeter. Like other seasonal poems in the corpus ("Valentine's Day", "Of June, and her belongings"), the poem may have been drafted as "gift" verse, commemorating the New Year. The couple addressed at the bottom could be the same alluded to in the poem: "May death's still fingers prick/ at thine embrace in vain." Though unusual in form, the poem's content, its stock religious allusion, fine sentiment and decorative imagery align it closely with nineteenth century popular and religious verse, e.g. "summer sun", "charms the heart" , "all blessed souls" and "thou white robbed fidelity". A few images offer more imaginative description; compare this poem's "ripening fire" and "ruby-tinted heat" with the more sensual "tropic heat" of "Irony", language that in turn echoes Emily's.

The note to Mr. and Mrs. Morse, a draft of which appears below this poem, was sent to them on December 31, 1910. 

The verse that appears upside-down at the bottom of the page is authored by Susan; the lines are by Michael Field (pseudonym for Katherine Harris Bradley and her niece Edith Emma Cooper). Susan copied them out, along with two other pieces, into her commonplace book. (See "ANONYMOUS VERSE")

Papers of Susan Dickinson,
Brown University Libraries

Note on Brown University Libraries draft not yet available.