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Poems

J216

Safe in their Alabaster Chambers -
Untouched by Morning
And untouched by Noon -
Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection -
Rafter of satin,
And Roof of stone.

Light laughs the breeze
In her Castle above them -
Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,
Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence -
Ah, what sagacity perished here!

version of 1859                    1862

Safe in their Alabaster Chambers -
Untouched by Morning
And untouched by Noon -
Lie the meek members of the Resurrection -
Rafter of Satin - and Roof of Stone!

Grand go the Years - in the Crescent - above them -
Worlds scoop their Arcs -
And Firmaments - row -
Diadems - drop - and Doges - surrender -
Soundless as dots - on a Disc of Snow -

version of 1861                    1890

 

The "absent referent" of this poem is the Puritans, ironically named in the phrase "the meek members of the Resurrection". Indeed, irony is Dickinson's principal weapon in this cool deflation of the Calvinists' self-righteous certainty that they were chosen for eternal life. The alternative second stanzas offer a fascinating glimpse into the working of the poet's mind.