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Friday Poem: Emily Dickinson

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Emily Dickinson, renowned American poet, died on May 15th in 1886. To mark her anniversary, we took a look at her life and one of her best-loved poems, A Bird, came down the Walk.

Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, and lived most of her life in isolation. The local community thought she was a bit weird, and in later life Dickinson became reluctant to leave the house, or even her bedroom.

Although some poems were published during her lifetime, it wasn’t until after her death that the true breadth of her work – nearly 2,000 poems – was discovered. Her style is characterised by somewhat serious themes, often revolving around death and immortality. Most of her poems lack titles, being known only by their first line. She was also a pioneering user of unconventional punctuation, and has become particularly famous for her use of the dash and capitalization.

She died on May 15th, 1886, after several months of ill health.

A Bird, came down the Walk

Despite the unfortunate death of the worm, this is one of Dickinson’s more upbeat works. It was inspired by a real encounter with a bird, and was first published in edited form in 1891, as part of the second collection of Dickinson’s work.

A Bird, came down the Walk - 

He did not know I saw -

He bit an Angle Worm 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 abroad -

They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,

He stirred his Velvet Head. - 

 

Like one in danger, Cautious,

I offered him a Crumb,

And he unrolled his feathers, 

And rowed him softer Home -

 

Than Oars divide the Ocean,

Too silver for a seam,

Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon, 

Leap, plashless as they swim. 

 

  

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