Nobody knows this little Rose--
It might a pilgrim be
Did I not take it from the ways
And lift it up to thee.
Only a Bee will miss it--
Only a Butterfly,
Hastening from far journey--
On it's breast to lie--
Only a Bird will wonder-
Only a Breeze will sigh--
Ah Little Rose-- how easy
For such as thee to die!
This is yet another of the many poems Dickinson writes that seems sweet in tone and in the objects mentioned, while the poem actually contains a darker content. It reads much like William Blake's poem "The Lamb", while containing echoes of the "The Tyger". Dickinson chooses for her subject the "little rose," a seeming young bud just coming into bloom and picked before its time.
The speaker in this poem seeks to assure the rose through a recounting of the supposedly few that will actually miss this young rose. Dickinson's use of "only" in lines five, six, nine, and ten are meant by the speaker to smooth over the many that will miss the rose. The repetition, however, is Dickinson's way of illustrating just how much this seemingly expendible rose will be missed. The repetition of "only" follows a pattern of three, an extremely common number of repetitions in writing, plus an additional echo of "only" that greater magnifies the loss of the rose.
Dickinson draws out the theme of expendibility in this poem, and the reader can't help but wonder if the real subject of death is a rose or a person. Certainly the metaphor can be drawn to include all life. The final lines conclude "Ah Little Rose-- how easy / For such as thee to die!", which begs the question: is any death easy? Even the most benign small roselet clearly has a place in the world and is missed by bee, butterfly, bird, and breeze (the alliteration Dickinson employs also heightens the impact of the repetition and enforces the ties the rose has to more than itself). Isn't all life interconnected? And therefore, each small loss would affect life on a much larger scale.
more on this poem and the theme of control in the future...