What is the Crocus?

The feet of people walking home
With gayer sandals go-
The Crocus-till she rises
The Vassal of the snow-
The lips at Hallelujah
Long years of practise bore
Till bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.

Pearls are the Diver’s farthings
Extorted from the sea-
Pinions-the Seraph’s wagon
Pedestrian once-as we-
Night is the morning’s Canvas
Death, but our rapt attention
To Immortality.

My figures fail to tel me
How far the Village lies-
Whose peasants are the Angels-
Whose Cantons dot the skies-
My Classics veil their faces-
My faith that Dark adores-
Which from its solemn abbeys
Such resurrection pours.

Emily Dickinson, 1858–#7

March 28
Weather: 40s partially cloudy

What a beautiful poem. “Death, but our rapt attention/To Immortality/My figures fail to tell me/How far the village lies….” Honesty–that’s Emily Dickinson. “The Crocus–till she rises/The Vassal of the snow.”

So, what does it mean to be a vassal or slave/subject/subordinate to the snow until you “rise”? And, “pinion”–that is a loaded word. The flight feathers of a bird–if you cut them off, they can’t fly. The “Seraph” who sits next to God’s throne.

I get so much longing, and even hope, in this poem–and the Crocus is such a powerful image in the poem–I believe, of these two things. And every year, Emily gets to look forward to the Crocus emerging in her Early Spring Garden.


During the Victorian era, people often gave gifts of flowers to represent some symbolic meaning that most everyone understood. Emily Dickinson did this a lot–sometimes accompanied by a poem. So, what did the crocus mean symbolically? From what I understand, to most, it represented cheefulness and gladness. But what about to Emily?

Here is a poem Emily sent to her cousin–accompanied by a Crocus:

She dwelleth in the Ground —
Where Daffodils — abide —
Her Maker — Her Metropolis —
The Universe — Her Maid —

To fetch Her Grace — and Hue —
And Fairness — and Renown —
The Firmament’s — To Pluck Her —
And fetch Her Thee — be mine —
(Emily Dickinson, 744)

I must admit, I have no experience with Crocuses. I’m a Crocus dummy. It’s not a very elegant name for a flower–in fact, it’s kind of funny.

Do you have experience with it–in your garden, or arrangements you’ve put together or received, poetry or art? What are you thoughts about this flower?

7 responses to “What is the Crocus?

  1. emilydickinsonsgarden

    I didn’t know this about the Crocus–and I cook with Saffron–it really is expensive!

    “The Greek word “krokos,” which meant “saffron,” is father to the modern word “crocus.” An orange-yellow dye and condiment, saffron is still derived from female flowering parts of Crocus sativa, a crocus species native to the eastern Mediterranean. In antiquity, it was used to dye royal robes, and was sometimes scattered in the paths of Roman emperors.

    It’s been estimated that 4,000 Crocus sativa plants yield an ounce of saffron, which explains why it was, and is, such a precious commodity. According to Wegman’s Market, they sell a tiny pinch—“not even enough to weigh”—for $9 to $14.”

    From the Butterfly Barn Nature Center website: http://www.butterflybarn.org/04-03-25.html

  2. emilydickinsonsgarden

    Also, I want to venture a guess about what the Crocus could have meant to Emily–just my guess….Since the crocus emerges at the end of Winter/Early Spring, it represents victory over a struggle–victory of the cold ground and snow–bringing a flower into a cold world deprived of beauty for many months. This is hope in something–and it would appear her hope lies in Nature. But the poem we find it in also speaks alot of resurrection and heaven–yet the author admits she doesn’t exactly know where that “village” lies. Could it be in a different place than many assume?

  3. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  4. crocus alway remind me of my grandmother. When their head would peak through the snow she would act like she found a pocketful of gold.

    My Grandmother has passed on my with every Spring the arrival of crocus is like a hug from Grandma.

  5. Pingback: First Day of Spring and First Flowers: Crocus & Snowdrops « Emily Dickinson’s Garden

    • emilydickinsonsgarden

      Here it is, less than a year since I wrote this. I had no idea what a crocus was at that point. Now I do. Crocus. I still think the name does not do it justice–it sounds like a frog coming up from the ground. Or even, death.

      Yet, it’s such a pretty flower. Can we rename it? How about “Full-of-Hope”?

  6. I think they are beautiful flowers. I think they are cheerful strong little flowers that catch you’re eyes. My favourite. They don’t flower for very long yet are the highlight of spring for me. They remind me of full of hope. Yes, i think that’s another good name for them.

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