Poem VAR #288

I’m nobody who are you?
are you nobody too?
then there’s a pair of us don’t tell
they’d banish us you know
How dreary to be somebody
how public like a frog
to tell your name the livelong
day to an admiring bog!
Subject: In his rebuke of the two women, Bowles must have called them “nobodies” who have no right to involve him in the scandal that would inevitably follow, if they tried to execute their crazy plan to flee together and live in lesbian communion abroad. Even though he may have primarily meant, with this “nobody” epithet, that they both are “no account” persons socially and politically to be able to marshal enough protection should they be caught – a touch of jealousy against E. seems to me discernible in his unnecessarily offending choice of term, especially at a time when he knew that E. was seriously consider publication of her poems. Line three and four of the first stanza make it plain, however, that his main concern was with the dangers threatening him should their lesbian alliance be discovered. In the second stanza she vents her own spleen on him. It is the offended genius, the offended poet, that lets loose with cold lightning on Mr. Samuel Bowles, publisher and editor of the Springfield Daily Republican with: “how public, like a frog, to tell your name the livelong day to an admiring bog”. More such diatribes from her against him will soon follow.


HWL's Comment

Date of writing: 1979

Comment: this is one of relatively few of her poems that have no sexual alignments. But of course: line 3 and four of the first stanza hint that a threat about their lesbianism was the motive power behind Bowles’ angry lecturing of the two women. It is highly probable that this was the occasion when he confronted them with his interdiction (fortified by specified threats, as indicated in other poems).
This poem identifies Bowles with the meaning of the symbol “frog” which makes its baffling entrance in the second letter to Kate, either 1860 or 1861.