The last day of a dismal February and, true to the spirit of the month, it's raining relentlessly, on already sodden ground. I don't remember ever feeling such a powerful longing for spring and sunshine - and the butterfly season - as I have felt these past few weeks... This morning I was leafing through Emily Dickinson - who seems greater, and stranger, every time I look at her - and came upon her butterfly poem -
THE BUTTERFLY’S assumption-gown,
In chrysoprase apartments hung,
This afternoon put on.
How condescending to descend,
And be of buttercups the friend
In a New England town!
Chrysoprase? This was a new one on me (though I remember Othello's 'one entire and perfect Chrysolite'). Apparently it's a green version of chalcedony - 'apple green' according to the OED - with (hem hem) remarkable properties, if you believe in that kind of thing. But what could Dickinson's butterfly be, with its 'chrysoprase apartments'? Greens are unusual in butterflies - certainly among British species, though we have this beauty. 'Apartments' suggests something like the beautiful hindwing of the Queen of Spain - but in green. I wonder if any of my American readers might have an idea what butterfly it was that Dickinson saw that afternoon, feeding on buttercups?