I’m ceded — I’ve stopped being Theirs | Emily Dickinson
I’m drawn to this poem from Emily Dickinson for two reasons. First, I sometimes call myself Queen Elouise. Second, it captures the difference between belonging to Them and belonging to Grace. In my view, it describes what we need today 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 –
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. Here, 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?) in the attic trunk along with childhood toys and activities she no longer needs. Perhaps they served her well, but they have no place in her new, freely chosen baptism into the fullness of her personhood.
And so 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.
This independence won’t come 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 respect you, and I am not your possession. I’m not interested in childish approaches to life. The name you gave me no longer fits. I don’t want or need your affirmation. I have a new, fuller Calling. I’m not the silver sliver of a Crescent moon. I’m a full-orbed 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. I am Adequate and Erect. I don’t want or need the kingdom, fancy parades, or pandering obeisance. I’m content with a simple Crown and telling the truth in my own voice, as I see it.
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, lightly edited and reposted 18 June 2021
Photo of Harvest Moon by Robin Osbon found at almanac.com