Perfumed Pages: Emily Dickinson, “Essential oils are wrung” (ca. 1862-64)

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F772B – [Essential oils are wrung]

 

Essential Oils—are wrung—
The Attar from the Rose
Be not expressed by Suns—alone—
It is the gift of Screws—

The General Rose—decay—
But this—in Lady’s Drawer
Make Summer—When the Lady lie
In Ceaseless Rosemary—

 

How have I never read this poem by Emily Dickinson before? I was actually just looking for one of my favorite poems about autumn (Dickinson’s “The morns are meeker than they were”) and I ended up reading this one instead, over and over.

Dickinson often referred to the scents of flowers, but this is the only verse I’ve seen (so far) where she’s writing specifically about perfume—and so much more, of course: human ingenuity, the passing of seasons and time and human life, the endurance of art.

I hope you’ll enjoy these lines too.

Credit:

Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886. Poems: Packet XXIV, Fascicles 40 (part) and 34 (part). Includes 13 poems, written in ink, dated ca. 1862-1864. Houghton Library – (133d) Essential Oils – are wrung -, J675, Fr772…

 

 

5 comments

  1. I adore rose scents. My favorites are Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare (Creed), Rose de Nuits (Lutens) and Rose de Poivre (Rosine). I don’t think that the Rosine is made anymore.

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    • Hi Mooretg, welcome to the rose-lover club! 😉 FdTRB is my favorite Creed! The Rosine line is still in existence, but it’s not distributed as widely as it used to be (in the USA, at least)… Aedes has part of the line and Luckyscent is also a good source. I’ve never ordered directly from the Rosine website, but they may ship overseas (depending on your location)!

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  2. Hello–
    What a wonderful find! I adore Emily Dickinson’s poetry for its mimimalism and depth of meaning but I also have not read this one before. Leave it to Dickinson to imagine roses extracted through use of “Screws” (like thumbscrews or other torture devices) and the fragrance of the attar outliving the lady, whose body is also preserved and scented, but with rather different long-term results, we must assume. She gives me chills…

    I’ve been happily lurking and enjoying your posts for some time, but I had to thank you for the sharing this poem. I am another former academic and perfume geek. I collect vintages most of the time but I love any beautiful, well-made perfume. I also love rose notes in perfumes. (Honestly, I can’t understand those who say they don’t. Is it reallly possible to dislike the smell of roses?) Some of my favorite rose perfumes are vintage Nahema, vintage Paris, vintage Joy… I also like Sonoma Scent Studios’ Rose Volupte and Maria Candida Gentile’s Burlesque.

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    • I’m so glad you posted, Maria! Thank you! I’ve loved Dickinson for ages, but haven’t really STUDIED her, per se…so I somehow missed this poem until now. I feel like I found it, or it found me, at just the right moment. It’s so simple on the surface, but so piercing and nuanced, with all those implications and layers of meaning that you noted…!

      I’m crazy about Nahema EDP…my bottle has been lasting me for years and years, so maybe it qualifies as “vintage” by now! And SSS does really unique florals…and I love Maria Candida Gentile’s Cinabre and I need to try some others from that line. Thanks for the reminder. Hope to “see” you here again soon! 🙂

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