Apparently with no surprise

Apparently with no surprise
To any happy flower,
The frost beheads it at its play
In accidental power.

The blond assassin passes on,
The sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another day
For an approving God.

~Emily Dickinson

What a weird and wonderful little poem! The flower is unsurprised by its own death, the speaker tells us. Yet the flower is happy anyway, at least until the moment of beheading. The frost which kills it is “accidental,” just playing around. Dickinson goes on, however, to refer to the frost as an “assassin” in the second stanza, which does not sound accidental at all. “Unmoved” by all the drama below, the sun continues marking off days, and God approves of all of this.

What if we were more like flowers, happy as much as we could possibly be, knowing and accepting that the assassin will eventually come for us, in season, too? What if we accepted life’s cycles instead of fighting them at every turn? The last stanza of this poem sounds so cold, but it might also read as God’s approval for the rightness of meeting nature where it is, not warring against it. The frost is playing, the flower is happy, and death will be the end of the latter–but this is as it should be.

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