Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poem- "A Bird came down the walk..."

Analysis of the Poem, “A Bird Came Down the Walk…”

The first stanza of the poem is saying that the bird is not aware of the fact that the speaker is present so he behaves normally. He bit into a worm and ate it raw. Why would the speaker mention about the fact that the bird ate the worm raw? In other words does she expect the bird to cook the worm or something of that sort before eating it? The first line, “a bird came down the walk,” sounds like someone walking on a sidewalk.

The second stanza of the poem is saying that the bird drank dew from a glass which I think is trying to resemble a human being drinking from a glass. And then he hopped on the side to let a beetle pass which I think signifies humanity.

The third stanza of the poem is saying that he glanced at every eye that looked at him which looked frightened which he compares to beads. This suggests that the bird is scared, and he is cautious; he has fear in him of some sort. Would the word “velvet” describe his innocence?

The fourth stanza of the poem is saying that the speaker tried to offer the bird some crumbs, but as the bird was already scared, her action flew him off. One point is to be made here- is the bird’s beauty, with words such as, “velvet head, frightened beads, feathers, softer home,”- are these words putting more emphasis on the bird’s beauty or on the danger of the word?

The final stanza of the poem is describing nature, I think. It’s comparing the sky with the air. But why does the speaker jump from talking about the bird to butterflies and ocean? Any thoughts?

Interpretation of the Overall Meaning of the Poem:

The overall poem is, in my opinion, trying to convey the relationship between the bird and a human. It has many other themes such as describing nature, and comparing some his appearance to human behaviors. The speaker observes the bird and tries to look at the bird by trying it to feed him food, but the bird flies off. The speaker describes the bird as a wild creature in nature as she says, “like one in danger; cautious….(Emily Dickinson 2571).”

In the poem, I think Emily is trying to tell about nature- about how beautiful nature is. It could be also thought that she is trying to convey her life and feelings through this poem. At first, the tone of the poem is content, happiness, but then as it progresses, it becomes more of a panic tone, as described in the following lines: At first the “bird came down the walk,”…then the tone changes as “he unrolled his feathers, and rowed him softer home (2571).” The speaker is comparing this scene in nature to probably show how birds and humans are alike. In several lines such as, “…he drank dew from a convenient glass (2571)” describes how the speaker is comparing the bird to humans. In this line she conveys that the bird drank from a glass just like we humans do.

In addition, she describes just as humans are happy when we eat, she describes the same exact feeling with the bird; the bird is happy that it is eating. Then when the bird is finished eating, the bird feels frantic as “he glanced with rapid eyes that hurried all abroad,” because it feels scared that it might be attacked on the ground because that is not his “home” in a sense since a bird is always flying in the air, but when it is in the air, it feels safe. As compared with humans, we feel safe in a place we are familiar with, as compared to an unfamiliar place. Right?

Dickinson describes the bird as it eats a worm, pecks at the grass, hops by a beetle. The overall message conveyed in this poem is that as the bird is frightened by the speaker into flying away, the bird becomes a symbol of wild essence that compares human beings who in a way try to approach and tame it. The final stanza of the poem reveals the most imagery as it says, “than oars divide the ocean… or butterflies, off banks of noon, leap, plashness, as they swim (2571).” This means that the bird’s flying off is invisible, then actually when one rows through water using oars; his “rowing” as conveyed was “too silver for a seam.” It was presented as even smoother than the butterflies as they swim.

Dickinson was a person of imagery. And as we can see, in this poem she uses strong imagery and rhyme schemes to attract the reader’s attention and to make them think. Her poems are not easy to understand but as a fellow reader, I have tried my best to analyze and dissect the poem as I observed it to be. To you it might have been something different, but again so many meanings can be pulled out from Dickinson’s poems!


  1. its 'convenient grass' not glass..which completely changes your evaluation of the line. if you're gonna try to make a proper in depth analysis of the poem at least read it first...

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