Emily Dickinson: Romance and Secrecy in “Title divine, is mine”

Title divine, is mine.

The Wife without the Sign  –

Acute Degree conferred on me  –

Empress of Calvary  –

Royal, all but the Crown  –

Betrothed, without the Swoon

God gives us Women –

When You hold Garnet to Garnet  –

Gold  –  to Gold  –

Born  –  Bridalled  –  Shrouded  –

In a Day –

Tri Victory  –

“My Husband”  –  Women say –

Stroking the Melody  –

Is this  –  the way –

                                                        – Emily Dickinson (1861)

The poem “Title divine, is mine” by Emily Dickinson is an enduring and heartbreaking statement on romantic love with a married man. Here we find the reclusive poet claiming that she is his rightful, divine partner and their union is stronger than any earthly piece of paper.

Rife with religious and royal imagery, the poem is a bold declaration of her status in his life. Dickinson claims that she is the “Empress of the Calvary,” (line 4) which according to the Gospels, is the location of Jesus’s crucifixion. By making this biblical allusion, she is asserting herself as the “Bride of Christ,” a moniker to profess her devotion to a man who is not physically present with her. She is “The Wife without the Sign…Royal, all but the Crown” (lines 2,5) She has his heart, but none of the outward signs. She is also comparing herself with Christ for her sacrifice of a public life with him. She will never get to call him “my husband.” She will never publicly swoon over him, but the intensity of his love makes her feel as if she has lived an entire life (born, married, and buried) with him in just one day.

Dickinson sent the poem to the married editor of the nearby Springfield Republican and longtime family friend Samuel Bowles (1826–78) with a note reading, “Here’s what I had to ‘tell you’ – You will tell no other?” (Rombes, Nicholas 1). Many scholars believe that a romantic connection between Dickinson and Bowles is plausible and that the poem was written with him in mind. Revealing her feelings to Bowles is a significant step for the budding poet because she had failed to do so in the past. He is the most likely candidate for Dickinson’s famed “Master letters” from the early 1860s. These three draft copies of passionate messages were addressed to someone she called “Master.” (Franklin 5). Never sent, the letters reveal a hopelessly lovesick Dickinson. And while she never married, she wore almost exclusively white in her later years, perhaps alluding to her symbolic marital status.

References

Franklin, R.W. (1986) The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson. Amherst, MA: Amherst College Press.

Rombes, Nicholas. “The Dark Mystery of Emily Dickinson’s “Master Letters.” The Rumpus.net. 18 May 2011. 3 May 2017. <http://therumpus.net/2011/05/the-dark-mystery-of-emily-dickinsons-master-letters/>.

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