“I Came to Buy a Smile – Today –” (1.Introduction & Translation)


I Came to buy a smile – today – (by Emily Dickinson) (poem 223)

I Came to buy a smile – today –
But just a single smile –
The smallest one upon your face
Will suit me just as well –
The one that no one else would miss
It shone so very small –
I’m pleading at the “counter” – sir –
Could you afford to sell –

I’ve Diamonds – on my fingers –
You know what Diamonds are?
I’ve Rubies – like the Evening Blood –
And Topaz – like the star!
‘Twould be “a Bargain” for a Jew!
Say – may I have it – Sir?


This was one of the poems Emily Dickinson sent to Samuel Bowles, the editor of the “Springfield Republican”, New England’s most influential newspaper of the day, who had published three of her poems. (Fewer than a dozen of poems were published, anonymously, during her lifetime).

He was an intimate of the entire Dickinson clan and, as far as we know, he may have been loved by Dickinson, either as a dear friend or as an impossible love.

The two had a regular correspondence and Emily sent him over three dozen letters, almost all written in the early 1860s, a particularly difficult time for the poet. He was also one of the primary recipients of her poems, nearly fifty, many of which allude to the turmoil she was experiencing during that time but do not reveal its specific nature.

He used to call her the “Queen Recluse,”, who dressed in white and lived a reclusive and solitary life.

Sono Venuta a comprare un sorriso – oggi –
ma proprio un singolo sorriso –
Il più piccolo sul vostro viso
Mi andrà bene lo stesso –
Quello che a nessun altro mancherebbe
Di uno splendore così piccolo –
Sto supplicando al “banco” – signore –
Potreste offrirvi di vendere –

Ho Diamanti – sulle dita –
Lo sapete cosa sono i Diamanti?
Ho Rubini – come il Sangue della Sera –
E Topazi – come stelle!
Sarebbe “un Affare” per un Ebreo!
Dite – posso averlo – Signore?


21 thoughts on ““I Came to Buy a Smile – Today –” (1.Introduction & Translation)

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