Claim the rank

One dignity delays for all,
One mitred afternoon.
None can avoid this purple,
None evade this crown.

Coach it insures, and footmen, 5
Chamber and state and throng;
Bells, also, in the village,
As we ride grand along.

What dignified attendants,
What service when we pause! 10
How loyally at parting
Their hundred hats they raise!

How pomp surpassing ermine,
When simple you and I
Present our meek escutcheon, 15
And claim the rank to die!

~Emily Dickinson

In looking back over my notes, I see I’d planned to pair this one with Robert Burns’s poem “For a’ That.” As I’ve now done that at least once already, though (maybe twice??), I guess I should give Robert Burns a rest. But I still think the comparison is apt. Though Dickinson is talking about death (because when, really, is she not?), death in this poem is the great equalizer. In death we are all on the same footing, regardless of our status in life.

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