A Bird Came Down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

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A bird c ame down the walk----" by Emily Dickinson
The first two stanzas of the poem are a simple description of the bird, not knowing it is being watched by the poet, being a bird. The third stanza is where Dickinson really hits her stride. The bird's "rapid eyes...hurried all abroad" is a darn good description of a bird on alert for predators. And while comparing the bird's eyes to "Beads" seems to make the bird less alive the fact that the beads are "frightened," while perhaps overly humanizing the bird, captures the look I've seen birds have when they noticed my presence (though the non-poetical would probably use "wary" as the adjective). The bird must have been made wary by Dickinson coming forward to offer it a crumb. The bird, of course, refuses the crumb and "unrolled his feathers / And rowed him softer home." Anyone who has seen crows fly across the sky can appreciate comparing birds' wings in flight to oars: in fact the simplest way I was taught to remember what a crow looks like in flight is "Row, row, row, your crow." But Dickinson takes the analogy of the bird's wings rowing through the air a step further and tiptoes towards whimsy when she extends her metaphor to "Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, / Leap, plashless, as they swim." The sky becomes the sea and butterflies, at high noon, leap into the air without a splash, a delightful image to this poetry-aficionado and a wonderful way to end the poem. "A bird came down the walk----" by Emily Dickinson

The Soul selects her own Society The speaker says that “the Soul selects her own Society—” and then “shuts the Door,” refusing to admit anyone else—even if “an Emperor be kneeling / Upon her mat—.” Indeed, the soul often chooses no more than a single person from “an ample nation” and then closes “the Valves of her attention” to the rest of the world. The meter of “The Soul selects her own Society” is much more irregular and halting than the typical Dickinson poem, although it still roughly fits her usual structure: iambic trimeter with the occasional line in tetrameter. It is also uncharacteristic in that its rhyme scheme—if we count half-rhymes such as “Gate” and “Mat”—is ABAB, rather than ABCB; the first and third lines rhyme, as well as the second and fourth. However, by using long dashes rhythmically to interrupt the flow of the meter and effect brief pauses, the poem’s form remains recognizably Dickinsonian, despite its atypical aspects. Commentary

Whereas “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” takes a playful tone to the idea of reclusiveness and privacy, the tone of “The Soul selects her own Society—” is quieter, grander, and more ominous. The idea that “The Soul selects her own Society” (that people choose a few companions who matter to them and exclude everyone else from their inner consciousness) conjures up images of a solemn ceremony with the ritual closing of the door, the chariots, the emperor, and the ponderous Valves of the Soul’s attention. Essentially, the middle stanza functions to emphasize the Soul’s stonily uncompromising attitude toward anyone trying to enter into her Society once the metaphorical door is shut—even chariots, even an emperor, cannot persuade her. The third stanza then illustrates the severity of the Soul’s exclusiveness—even from “an ample nation” of people, she easily settles on one single person to include, summarily and unhesitatingly locking out everyone else. The concluding stanza, with its emphasis on the “One” who is chosen, gives “The Soul selects her own Society—” the feel of a tragic love poem, although we need not reduce our understanding of the poem to see its theme as merely romantic. The poem is an excellent example of Dickinson’s tightly focused skills with metaphor and imagery; cycling through her regal list of door, divine Majority, chariots, emperor, mat, ample nation, and stony valves of attention, Dickinson continually surprises the reader with her vivid and unexpected...
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