Emily Dickinson (part 1)

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A. Listen to the poem and read it.

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.

B. Answer the questions.

  1. Where did the poet see the bird?
  2. What did the bird eat and drink?
  3. Why did the bird move to the side?
  4. How did the bird's behaviour change in stanza 3? Why?
  5. What did the poet want to do? How did she behave?
  6. How did the bird respond to the poet's offering?
  7. Is the view of nature presented in the opening lines of the poem sentimentalized or realistic?
  8. How may the description of the bird in stanzas 1-2 be similar to human behaviour?
  9. Read stanza 3. What words used by the author describe the bird in terms of civilization? What word combinations are unusual? What kinds of figurative language does the author use?
  10. What is the flight of the bird compared to in stanzas 4-5?
  11. What word combinations in stanzas 4-5 are unusual? How do you understand them? What kinds of figurative language does the author use?
  12. Find examples of assonance and alliteration in stanzas 4-5. What effects do the sounds create?
  13. Does the poet express openly her feelings or attitudes throughout the poem? Does the description of the bird show her surprise, curiosity, amusement, disappointment, admiration? How does the tone of the poem change towards the end?
  14. What themes does the poem suggest? How does it show the relationships between nature and people?

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C. Listen to the poem and read it.

A narrow Fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides—
You may have met Him—did you not?
His notice sudden is—

The Grass divides as with a Comb—
A spotted shaft is seen—
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on—

He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn—
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—
I more than once at Noon

Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone—

Several of Nature's People
I know, and they know me—
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality—

But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone—

D. Answer the questions.

  1. The subject of this poem is never named. What is it? What imagery does the poet use to identify it? What figurative language is used?
  2. What are the speaker's feelings towards the subject? How are they expressed?
  3. What kind of person is the speaker? What can you learn about him from the poem?
  4. The last two lines might be paraphrased as "without being frightened." Why is Dickinson's wording more effective?
  5. What tenses (past or present) are used in the poem? Why?
  6. Where does the speaker address us? Why?
  7. Find examples of alliteration and explain their use.
  8. Compare and contrast the two poems. What do they have in common? How are they different?