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“No Frigate Like a Book”

This manuscript is an example of three aspects of Dickinson’s poetic process: Her habit of using handy scrap paper to record a moment’s inspiration, her exploration of literature or poetry as a subject, and her use of variants suggesting the alternate words she was considering. How would the use of “one” instead “us” change the line “to take us Lands away”? Seemingly small word changes can have subtle impact: “This travel may the poorest take” or “This Traverse may the poorest take”? Not publishing her poems allowed the poet the opportunity to leave her variants as an integral part of her manuscripts.

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Fr 1286

Emily Dickinson, Fr 1286, The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, ed. R.W. Franklin (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), 501.

Courtesy of Amherst College Archives & Special Collections

Poem printed in pencil across two scraps of paper, one below the other. Top: blue-ruled. Bottom: unlined with torn edge.