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September 28 2019
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’Tis little I — could care for Pearls —
Who own the ample sea —
Or Brooches — when the Emperor —
With Rubies — pelteth me —
Or Gold — who am the Prince of Mines —
Or Diamonds — when have I
A Diadem to fit a Dome —
Continual upon me —
— Emily Dickinson, No. 466

In the poem “’Tis little I—could care for Pearls,” written in 1862, Emily Dickinson positions the artist as the richest of royals. Earthly treasures, those brooches and baubles bought at Cartier and Fabergé, are nothing compared with the imagination’s vast seas and deep mines, a kingdom of boundless wealth. Queens and their daughters may regularly wear diadems, but they measure only the circumference of their heads and the size of their country. Dickinson’s diadem fits a “Dome”—the celestial sphere above and around us—and its diamonds are the stars in the sky. Indeed, Dickinson could easily be describing that artist we call a ballerina, whose body is trained on circlets, halos, and hemispheres, and whose serene power feels supreme. Though it isn’t quite possible to pinpoint the moment that the ballerina’s reign began, three or so centuries ago, it has ever since been continual.

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