AS if some little Arctic flower,
Upon the polar hem,
Went wandering down the latitudes,
Until it puzzled came
To continents of summer,
To firmaments of sun,
To strange, bright crowds of flowers,
And birds of foreign tongue!
I say, as if this little flower
To Eden wandered in—
What then? Why, nothing, only
Your inference therefrom!
Brenna: Things I love about this poem:
1) Personification of little wandering flower = adorable.
2) There is not a complete sentence in the entire poem–no completed thought–which works really, really well, since the whole point of the poem is to not tell the reader exactly what she’s thinking–to not complete her own thought, but imply it. This brings me to
3) Emily is SO VERY flirty. This is the kind of poem that makes me think she didn’t get married because she just didn’t want to. Girlfriend must have been able to flirt with the best of them. She is so coy.
Pam: I love your second point! Yes. Having the unfinished sentences makes sense if you are trying to obscure the meaning. However, I do not see the flirting at all.
Brenna: It’s the elusiveness.
Pam: I am immediately thrown by how off the meter feels, especially in that last line. I feel like I need to go over this with a ruler and count out syllables and stresses.
Brenna: The “I have something to say but I’m not going to tell you, you have to guess” aspect of it.
Pam: “your inference therefrom” breaks the entire meter from every previous line. Emily.
Brenna: Apparently she could be quite the flirt, and sent Valentines to young men at her father’s office. I could see this being the text of some nineteenth-century Valentine.
Brenna: She breaks meter maybe because she’s breaking her train of thought.
Pam: Yes, because in this line, she’s addressing “you”!
Pam: So perhaps we’ve switched from flower poem traipsing around to talking to the subject of her affections?
Brenna: Yes. I think she’s saying that meeting him (whoever) is like being a little Arctic flower (small, plain, pale) traveling to exotic locales, winding up in Eden and seeing–oooh, she can’t say “him,” that’s just way too forward.
Brenna: I think Miss Always-Wears-White is the little Arctic flower. My working theory now is that for Emily, cold = passion.
Pam: The idea of an Arctic flower is just so Mary Sue to me. I love it. “I know flowers don’t usually grow in the Arctic, but THIS ONE does, and it’s special, and this shows how determined it is.”
Brenna: But there are Arctic flowers, right? During the spring/summer? Things bloom there. Of course, they’re more ephemeral. And rare. Because DEATH. And because nobody is quite like Emily.
Brenna: It’s a little bit vain, in an oddly closeted way. EMILY HUMBLEBRAG.
Pam: Apparently, there are Arctic flowers! Shows you what I know about different climates. And she would have known this, I’m sure, as an avid gardener. Aside: look up Arctic cotton grass. It is ADORABLE
Brenna: Okay, that is an adorable plant.
Pam: I want to squeeze it. I’m wondering now which plant she was imagining as her Arctic flower.
Brenna: It’s like a tiny Muppet on a stalk! And I would bet you cash money it’s a white one.
Pam: Well, if the “bright crowds of flowers” are strange, I bet you’re right.
The little white Arctic flower descending down to see the colorful, common flowers!
Brenna: It’s a perfect metaphor for the agoraphobic. All of us introverts are wallflowers when thrown into a room of gorgeous, gaudy people.
Pam: There’s such a lovely sentiment at the end, too. Being in this unknown person’s presence is like a flower wandering back to Eden.
Brenna: Yes! It’s as if she’s found her original habitat, her true home.
Pam: Yes! You can absolutely feel the “I don’t belong here” vibe.
Brenna: And the birds. Always with the birds, this one.
Pam: Which ties in even more to the broken meter at the end. It goes completely passive. The stresses just disappear.
Brenna: Because her stress melts away in the presence of this mystery-person. That might be going a bit far…. I am apparently feeling quite literal today.
Pam: Ha, or she loses personality or authority! It’s like having a big speech prepared and then seeing a cute guy and then you mumble, “Hey, hi, hello,” and scutter off.
Brenna: If I had an Arctic cotton grass for every time that’s happened…