Defrauded I a Butterfly—
The lawful Heir—for Thee—
Poem (#730 in the Johnson Edition) was written in 1863 and later edited in 1890 by Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson in the First Series Robert Brothers 1890 edition. It was first published in the 1929 collection of Dickinson’s poetry, then in Poems (1955), Complete Poems (1960), and The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (1981).
The I of the poem claims identity as a butterfly but at the same time reports that possibility has been taken away. In the next in line, the speaker describes a just being or doings by using the word “lawful” manner that she shall be “Heir.” However, such is life; unjust and unfair events, actions, or reasons occur. As free as the “Butterfly” is, the camouflage doesn’t always work, falling short in its attempts and leaving it feeling defrauded. Perhaps Dickinson would still feel defrauded today if she knew how many people edited her original works and didn’t let her poetry hide its secret beauty, as a butterfly does while camouflaged.
A visual commentary on this poem by the painter Ishita Bandyo is the painting Defrauded I a Butterfly. The bright colors of Bandyo’s painting creates a pathway for thinking regarding Dickinson’s poem; with just two lines, nine words, and three dashes, this poem is full of color and life.
Bibliography and Further Reading “Defrauded I a Butterfly.” Poems: Packet XXX, Fascicle 38. Includes 20 poems, written in ink, ca. 1863. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Emily Dickinson Archive. “Ishita Bandyo Art.” Contemporary Mixed Media.
Credits Composed by Emma Kash, Spring 2017