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An Analysis of Selected Emily Dickinson Nature Poems

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/20/2012

I will attempt to explain Emily Dickinson's poems--her nature poems, not all of them, just a few. It is reasonable that you may have a conflicting interpretation. I'm OK with that. If you're going to complain, however, make sure you you have proof of your arguments.

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    I have provided observations and analysis for selected Emily Dickinson nature poems. Follow the steps outlined in how to do a poem analysis to complete your own analysis. Find a complete listing of Emily Dickinson's nature poems here.

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    Nature, the Gentlest Mother

    1. Rhyme Scheme: stanzas 1,2,6 - xaxa; stanzas 2,3,4 - xxxx (off rhyme with the second and fourth lines). Stanzas one, two, and six all speak of the gentleness of nature and nature's affection for her creations. The content is peaceful as is the rhyme scheme. In stanza three, the reader is expecting another nice rhyme to end the stanza, but is jolted with off rhyme. The last line of stanza three--not accidentally, I assure you--marks an abrupt change from the day to the sun going down.
    2. Meter: mostly iambic trimeter with an occasional line of tetrameter.
    3. Rhythm: Dickinson uses variations in meter and rhyme to create rhythm.
    4. Personification: Nature is personified as a gentle mother--there is no image in the world more benevolent as a gentle mother. Nature watches over her creations, personified as children.
    5. In stanza two, humans represent the interloper, an unwanted guest that frightens nature's children. It's like when a mother is walking down the street with her children and some drunken baffoon comes barrelling down using foul language and the mother does everything in her power to shield her children's ears and distract them from the uncleanness of the world. That's what nature does when human travellers come near.
    6. Theme: Nature represents purity and love, far outstripping the creations of humans.
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    The Sun Just Touched the Morning

    1. Rhyme Scheme: xaxa-the rhyme is consistent until the last stanza where we are surprised by off rhyme in the last line, similar to the surprise faced by morning when her glory has been stripped from her.
    2. Personification: The sun is the "he" referred to in line three, the "wheeling king" in line eight, and the thing that possesses the "haughty, spangled hems, / leaving a new necessity" (10-11).
    3. Personification: The morning is the "she" that "felt herself supremer,-- / A raised, ethereal thing" (5-6). The morning's haughtiness is struck down as "her wheeling king" (8) leaves her lacking a diadem, a symbol of royalty.
    4. Metaphor: The morning represents youth. The young feel themselves superior on account of their vitality, represented by the sun. The last stanza shows the morning after the loss of the sun: "The morning fluttered, staggered, / Felt feebly for her crown" (13-14). Many are stunned as time slowly erases the marks of youth. The word "feebly" in line 14 produces an image of old age. The morning is stunned that the diadem she possessed will be the only one she possesses. youth is experienced only once.
    5. Off rhyme: we are once again jolted by the off rhyme in the last stanza. Dickinson forces the reader to ponder her last word carefully. Is it a caution to not waste our youth with arrogance and vanity?
    6. Theme: Nature gives us one youth, one morning--don't screw it up.
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    Pigmy Seraphs Gone Astray

    1. Rhyme Scheme: aaaabbccdddeeffgg
    2. The first four lines describe a rose.
    3. Lines 5-8 compare the rose to the most beautiful cities in Europe, none of which match the beauty of a rose.
    4. Lines 9-13 states how the speaker of the poem would rather possess the beauty of a rose than have the face of a distinguished Earl.
    5. In lines 14-17, the speaker asserts the rose has conquered something much more grand than anything conquered by the Duke of Exeter.
    6. Theme: Roses are purdy!

Emily Dickinson Study Guide

When I was in high school, my English teacher made us read Emily Dickinson. I loathed it. I'm older now and enjoy Emily Dickinson's poetry. I, however, don't want you to suffer as I did, so I made this Emily Dickinson study guide.
  1. Major Themes in Emily Dickinson's Poems: Death
  2. Emily Dickinson Quotes: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson Poetry
  3. An Analysis of Selected Love Poems by Emily Dickinson
  4. An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poems
  5. An Analysis of Selected Emily Dickinson Nature Poems