‘A Bird came down the Walk’ focuses on a popular theme of Emily Dickinson’s poems: animals. As ever, she looks at them in her own way, offering an idiosyncratic perspective on the bird, in this poem.
A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,
And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around— Read the rest of this entry
Barely any of the hundreds of poems Emily Dickinson wrote were published during her lifetime, and indeed, while she was alive, she was far better known as a gardener than a poet. ‘New feet within my garden go’, which is about new generations setting foot in her garden while the seasons continue to roll on and roll round, reminds us of the link between mankind’s toil (working in the garden) and the vast and eternal cycle of nature which makes our achievements seem so small by comparison.
New feet within my garden go –
New fingers stir the sod –
A Troubadour upon the Elm
Betrays the solitude.
New children play upon the green –
New Weary sleep below –
And still the pensive Spring returns –
And still the punctual snow! Read the rest of this entry
‘If you were coming in the Fall…’ The key word is ‘If’. Some of the best love poems are poems addressed to an absent beloved. George MacDonald wrote a very short poem, ‘The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs’, comprising just two short words of longing: ‘Come / Home’. As the double meaning of the word ‘want’ (both ‘desire’ and ‘lack’) illustrates, we want what we can’t have. Or, to borrow another old phrase: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Emily Dickinson, in her poem ‘If you were coming in the Fall’, explores this idea of missing an absent beloved.
If you were coming in the Fall,
I’d brush the Summer by
With half a smile, and half a spurn,
As Housewives do, a Fly.
If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls—
And put them each in separate Drawers,
For fear the numbers fuse—
If only Centuries, delayed,
I’d count them on my Hand,
Subtracting, till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen’s Land. Read the rest of this entry