“It takes one to know one,” some say. The following poem by Emily Dickinson puts a twist on this cliche. 

“The Beggar Lad — dies early” may be about someone who has determination or luck (“And haply, in the World — ” ) to rise above modest circumstances. Everyone loves a story of success in the world. Especially when it is “Among Redeemed Children”. 

The poem places the critical action within the individual not in worldly victory. 

The Beggar Lad – dies early – 
It’s Somewhat in the Cold – 
And somewhat in the Trudging feet – 
And haply, in the World – 

The Cruel – smiling – bowing World – 
That took its Cambric Way – 
Nor heard the timid cry for “Bread – ”
“Sweet Lady – Charity” – 

Among Redeemed Children
If Trudging feet may stand – 
The Barefoot time forgotten – so – 
The Sleet – the bitter Wind – 

The Childish Hands that teased for Pence
Lifted adoring – then – 
To Him whom never Ragged – Coat
Did supplicate in vain –

 

The first line’s “— dies early — ” makes me think that if one is to survive a hypocritical “… Cruel — smiling — bowing World — ” that seals itself off in its cocoon of luxury, “its Cambric Way — ”, one’s image of oneself as “Somewhat in the Cold — ” has to disappear.

The poem does not promise anything that would contradict the fact that “Trudging feet may stand — ” in a “bread line” of non-nurturing care. Childhood’s “Barefoot time” may see “The Sleet — the bitter Wind — ” whip around its “Childish Hands”, or “Lifted adoring — then — ”.

If this child of misfortune can manage to forget having to “tease for Pence” it will be because something in the cold itself (“It’s Somewhat in the Cold — ”was interpreted as proof that his “Ragged — Coat” never “Did supplicate in vain —”.  


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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