‘I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind’ is one of several poems that Dickinson wrote within the format of a letter. This particular letter-poem was sent to Susan Dickinson, who was married to Emily’s older brother, Austin. The mood of this piece is upbeat and lighthearted, the subject is lighter than is normal in Dickinson’s poetry, and more external than readers might expect. She touches on themes of value, beauty, and friendship.
Explore I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind
The poem takes the reader through different images of places and gifts. The first stanza contains several lavish and beautiful ones. All of these the speaker decides are inappropriate for the listener. She finally settles on a brightly blazing flower that she found. This, she decides, is the perfect gift.
‘I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind’ to by Emily Dickinson is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains do not follow a specific rhyme scheme although there are several moments of end rhyme present in the text. These are seen as half-rhymes.
Half-rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “to” and “Cruz” in lines one and four of stanza one and “Meadow” and “those” in lines three and four of the second stanza. There are also examples of half-rhymes within the lines, a technique known as internal rhyme. For instance, “Fellow” and “Bobadilo” in stanza three.
Dickinson makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, enjambment, and allusion. The latter, allusion, is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. In this case, Dickinson alludes to the nature of several exotic places, many of which might not be familiar to the reader. But, that seems to add to the interest and general importances of the lavish gifts she could purchase from those places. Therefore, by negating to buy those gifts, she is placing even more importance on the flower.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “Berries,” “Bahamas,” “But,” and “Blaze” in lines one and two of the second stanza as well as “Bobadilo,” “Better,” and “bring” in lines three and four of the third stanza.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. In the case of ‘I could bring You Jewels—have I a mind,’ Dickinson uses enjambment along with dashes at the end of lines.
I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind to—
But You have enough—of those—
I could bring You Odors from St. Domingo—
Colors—from Vera Cruz—
In the first stanza of ‘I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind’ the speaker begins by making use of the line that later came to be acknowledged as the title of the poem. Dickinson very frequently chose not to name her poems, meaning that many are known by numbers or by their first lines.
The speaker addresses the listener, telling them that she could bring them jewels if she chose to, but this isn’t something that she’s interested in. The speaker knows that the listener has “enough—of those”. Through this detail, a reader can infer that the speaker has access to money, as does the listener.
In the next lines, the speaker also plays with the idea of bringing “Odors from St. Domingo” or “Colors—from Vera Cruz”. She thought about bringing a sweet-smelling perfume from St. Domingo in the Dominican Republic or “Colors” (likely brightly colored cloth) from the city of Veracruz in Mexico.
A lover of Dickinson’s poetry will be familiar with her characteristic dashes and seemingly sporadic use of capitalization that appear in this poem. There are numerous dashes that separate words and lines, these are generally considered as ways of making the reader stop, pause briefly, before continuing on. They are also used in some instances for dramatic effect. The capitalization works in a similar way, drawing a reader’s attention to words and lending them additional importance.
Berries of the Bahamas—have I—
But this little Blaze
Flickering to itself—in the Meadow—
Suits Me—more than those—
In the second stanza of ‘I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind’ the speaker also considers the gift of “Berries” from the Bahamas. This is moving the poem into the territory that the speaker is really interested in, natural imagery. Finally, she gets to what she wants to bring “you,” the “little Blaze” that she found “Flickering to itself—in the Meadow”. She has a wildflower that she decides is the appropriate gift for “you”.
This choice says a great deal about the speaker and the listener, or at least what the speaker believes the listener will or should appreciate. The choice to bring home a flower rather than jewels or expensive cloth makes the speaker seem humble. She is in tune with nature, and interested in a beauty that goes deeper than the surface.
Never a Fellow matched this Topaz—
And his Emerald Swing—
Dower itself—for Bobadilo—
Better—Could I bring?
In the final stanza of ‘I could bring You Jewels—had I a mind’ the speaker goes on to say that there was never a “Fellow” to match this “Topaz”. She knows that there is nothing in the world that could match the beauty of the flower that she’s discovered. In line three she mentions “Bobadilo”. This could refer to a small village in Spain. Alternatively, it could reference Francisco de Bobadilo, a Spanish governor of the West Indies. He is best known today for seizing treasure from his enemies.
In these lines, she is very set on her choice and asks the listener a rhetorical question. Is there anything better that she could “bring?” She, of course, expects the answer to this question to be no.