When I was a teenager, trust and betrayal were outrageously important. One of the poems by Emily Dickinson completed when she was 28, uses Greek mythology, sun and sunset, and gold mining to examine these issues.

In the poem’s first stanza, the sun, like a gold-digger who has displayed “his” fine metal to everyone all day, “crouches low” at sunset, like a thief who obtained the splendor by ill-gotten gain. This suggestion of untrustworthiness tries to become palatable with the second stanza’s idea of closeness. But, “My life had forfeit been”; the person is threatened with (or, promised?) absorption.

The poem warns the reader that life purpose, (probably, in this poem, a reference to the poet’s work,) “That was a wondrous booty —” is the richest gift. “the fairest ingots/That ever kissed the spade!”

The questions of how to know whether love is true, or, whether advice is sound, or, friendship real, must not be given over to another for in so doing one’s self is asking for trouble, even extinction.


I never told the buried gold

Opon the hill — that lies —

I saw the sun — his plunder done

Crouch low to guard his prize.


He stood as near

As stood you here —

A pace had been between —

Did but a snake bisect the brake

My life had forfeit been.


That was a wondrous booty —

I hope ’twas honest gained.

Those were the fairest ingots

That ever kissed the spade!


Whether to keep the secret —

Whether to reveal —

Whether as I ponder

“Kidd” will sudden sail —


Could a shrewd advise me

We might e’en divide —

Should a shrewd betray me —

Atropos decide

Atropos is one of three Greek Fates. Her function was to cut the thread of human life after Clotho had spun it and Lachesis measured it off.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way