“Defrauded I a Butterfly”

Defrauded I a Butterfly—
The lawful Heir—for Thee—

Emily Dickinson’s short poem (#730 in the Johnson Edition) was written in 1863 but it wasn’t until 1890 that it was edited by Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson in the First Series Robert Brothers 1890 edition. Perhaps Dickinson would still feel defrauded today if she knew how many people edited her original works and didn’t let her poetry hide it’s secret beauty, as a butterfly does while camouflaged.

Not only can one read this poem quickly, but there are barely any critiques or opinions on this secretive gem. The only commentary on this poem is a piece of art titled “Defrauded I a Butterfly”. Ishita Bandyo, a contemporary fine arts painter, created a painting with the title being the first line of Dickinson’s poem (Bandyo).  The bright, voluminous colors of Bandyo’s painting creates a pathway for thinking regarding Dickinson’s poem, and with just two lines,  nine words, and three dashes—this poem is full of color and life.

Dickinson is  claiming that she is meant to be the butterfly, but that possibility has been taken away from her. Which when examining a butterfly, one must acknowledge its perfect symmetry, camouflage techniques, and ability to fly freely. This may be Dickinson’s cry for a balanced life, but a life that is also secretive and has no limits. Unfortunately this was all taken away from her, as the runner up for next in line, the “Heir”. This life of secret freedom, along with a balanced, even level to her life is accompanied by unjust beings or doings due to this was a “lawful” manner that she shall be “Heir.” However such is life, unjust and unfair events, actions, or reasons occur and even as free as the “Butterfly” is, the camouflage doesn’t always work, leaving one defrauded; falling short in their attempt.

—Emma Kash

Bibliography and Further Reading “Emily Dickinson Archive.” Emily Dickinson Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. “Ishita Bandyo Art.” Contemporary Mixed Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.


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