I’m ceded — I’ve stopped being Theirs —

by Elouise


Here’s another beauty from Emily Dickinson. I’m drawn to it not simply because I sometimes call myself Queen Elouise, but because it captures so well the difference between belonging to Them and belonging to Grace. It also suggests what we need right now in this world of stunning beauty, visible misery and stunning injustice. My comments follow.

I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Theirs –
The name They dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools,
I’ve finished threading – too –

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, of Grace –
Unto supremest name –
Called to my Full – The Crescent dropped –
Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,
With one small Diadem.

My second Rank – too small the first –
Crowned – Crowing – on my Father’s breast –
A half unconscious Queen –
But this time – Adequate – Erect,
With Will to choose, or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown –

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Emily’s poem reminds me of the biblical exhortation to put away childish things. Emily is ready to put away her childhood name—the name They chose and dropped on her face at her infant baptism.

In fact, They can put that name (Princess?) away in the attic trunk along with all those childhood toys and activities she no longer needs. They may have served her well, but they have no place in her new, freely chosen baptism into the fullness of her personhood.

In this poem Emily announces her conscious Declaration of Independence. Her rebaptism is possible because of Grace, not because of someone else’s past decision for her, or their approval of her decision now. This choice is hers alone, made possible by Grace! Not forced, not from shame or blame, and not as a power move.

It seems this independence won’t come, however, without clarity of speech and action. Even more difficult, since it’s driven by Grace this means clarity driven by the Grace of truth, not by anger or a desire for revenge or retribution.

I don’t belong to you anymore. I respect you, and I am not your possession. I will no longer be preoccupied or fascinated with childish approaches to life. The name you gave me back then no longer fits. I don’t want or need your affirmation. It would be good to have your love and your listening ear. Nonetheless, I have a new, fuller Calling. I’m not the silver sliver of a Crescent moon. I’m a full-orbed, glowing Harvest Moon, signified by this ‘one small Diadem’ I now wear.

I’ve outgrown my childish identity. Back then I was at best a half conscious Queen. Today I’ve come of age. No more baby crown, and no more cute crowing or baby talk.

Unlike my childhood status, I’m now Adequate and Erect. I don’t want the kingdom, fancy parades or pandering obeisance. I don’t need them. I’m content with a simple Crown and my own voice to tell the truth as I see it, come what may.

Need I say Queen Elouise again? Now, more than ever, I long to be

…Adequate – Erect –
With Will to choose or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown –

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 November 2016
Photo of Harvest Moon by Robin Osbon,
found at almanac.com, website for The Farmer’s Almanac