Teach Him – When He makes the names –
Such an one – to say –
On his babbling – Berry – lips –
As should sound – to me –
Were my Ear – as near his nest –
As my thought – today –
As should sound –
"Forbid us not" –
Some like "Emily."
F198 (1861) 227
A very sweet poem Dickinson sent to Samuel Bowles and his wife after the birth of their son Charles. The syntax is all askew so the poem bears a few readings to get it straight. There’s also a breathless quality with all the dashes and interjections. The poet makes two points: My thought is very near to that baby today (“as near as his nest”);and “ Please teach him to say “Emily” (or something like it).
|Mother giving Scotts|
to babbling baby. Yum!
I like the “babbling – Berry – lips” because it’s both descriptive and charming as well as alliterative and catching the babbling sound of babies. Dickinson takes a baby’s point of view for a moment when she writes “Forbid us not.” The quote comes from the New Testament when Jesus tells a group of people to let the little children come close to him and “forbid them not.” I think she is saying “Oh don’t forbid that your baby and I be close.” This poem is one of the very few that Dickinson gave a title to.