Poems, Series Two, by Emily Dickinson

III. Nature.


Mother Nature.

Nature, the gentlest mother,

Impatient of no child,

The feeblest or the waywardest, —

Her admonition mild

In forest and the hill

By traveller is heard,

Restraining rampant squirrel

Or too impetuous bird.

How fair her conversation,

A summer afternoon, —

Her household, her assembly;

And when the sun goes down

Her voice among the aisles

Incites the timid prayer

Of the minutest cricket,

The most unworthy flower.

When all the children sleep

She turns as long away

As will suffice to light her lamps;

Then, bending from the sky

With infinite affection

And infiniter care,

Her golden finger on her lip,

Wills silence everywhere.


Out of the Morning.

Will there really be a morning?

Is there such a thing as day?

Could I see it from the mountains

If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like water-lilies?

Has it feathers like a bird?

Is it brought from famous countries

Of which I have never heard?

Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!

Oh, some wise man from the skies!

Please to tell a little pilgrim

Where the place called morning lies!


At half-past three a single bird

Unto a silent sky

Propounded but a single term

Of cautious melody.

At half-past four, experiment

Had subjugated test,

And lo! her silver principle

Supplanted all the rest.

At half-past seven, element

Nor implement was seen,

And place was where the presence was,

Circumference between.


Day’s Parlor.

The day came slow, till five o’clock,

Then sprang before the hills

Like hindered rubies, or the light

A sudden musket spills.

The purple could not keep the east,

The sunrise shook from fold,

Like breadths of topaz, packed a night,

The lady just unrolled.

The happy winds their timbrels took;

The birds, in docile rows,

Arranged themselves around their prince

(The wind is prince of those).

The orchard sparkled like a Jew, —

How mighty ’t was, to stay

A guest in this stupendous place,

The parlor of the day!


The Sun’s Wooing.

The sun just touched the morning;

The morning, happy thing,

Supposed that he had come to dwell,

And life would be all spring.

She felt herself supremer, —

A raised, ethereal thing;

Henceforth for her what holiday!

Meanwhile, her wheeling king

Trailed slow along the orchards

His haughty, spangled hems,

Leaving a new necessity, —

The want of diadems!

The morning fluttered, staggered,

Felt feebly for her crown, —

Her unanointed forehead

Henceforth her only one.


The Robin.

The robin is the one

That interrupts the morn

With hurried, few, express reports

When March is scarcely on.

The robin is the one

That overflows the noon

With her cherubic quantity,

An April but begun.

The robin is the one

That speechless from her nest

Submits that home and certainty

And sanctity are best.


The Butterfly’s Day.

From cocoon forth a butterfly

As lady from her door

Emerged — a summer afternoon —

Repairing everywhere,

Without design, that I could trace,

Except to stray abroad

On miscellaneous enterprise

The clovers understood.

Her pretty parasol was seen

Contracting in a field

Where men made hay, then struggling hard

With an opposing cloud,

Where parties, phantom as herself,

To Nowhere seemed to go

In purposeless circumference,

As ’t were a tropic show.

And notwithstanding bee that worked,

And flower that zealous blew,

This audience of idleness

Disdained them, from the sky,

Till sundown crept, a steady tide,

And men that made the hay,

And afternoon, and butterfly,

Extinguished in its sea.


The Bluebird.

Before you thought of spring,

Except as a surmise,

You see, God bless his suddenness,

A fellow in the skies

Of independent hues,

A little weather-worn,

Inspiriting habiliments

Of indigo and brown.

With specimens of song,

As if for you to choose,

Discretion in the interval,

With gay delays he goes

To some superior tree

Without a single leaf,

And shouts for joy to nobody

But his seraphic self!



An altered look about the hills;

A Tyrian light the village fills;

A wider sunrise in the dawn;

A deeper twilight on the lawn;

A print of a vermilion foot;

A purple finger on the slope;

A flippant fly upon the pane;

A spider at his trade again;

An added strut in chanticleer;

A flower expected everywhere;

An axe shrill singing in the woods;

Fern-odors on untravelled roads, —

All this, and more I cannot tell,

A furtive look you know as well,

And Nicodemus’ mystery

Receives its annual reply.


The Sleeping Flowers.

“Whose are the little beds,” I asked,

“Which in the valleys lie?”

Some shook their heads, and others smiled,

And no one made reply.

“Perhaps they did not hear,” I said;

“I will inquire again.

Whose are the beds, the tiny beds

So thick upon the plain?”

“’T is daisy in the shortest;

A little farther on,

Nearest the door to wake the first,

Little leontodon.

“’T is iris, sir, and aster,

Anemone and bell,

Batschia in the blanket red,

And chubby daffodil.”

Meanwhile at many cradles

Her busy foot she plied,

Humming the quaintest lullaby

That ever rocked a child.

“Hush! Epigea wakens! —

The crocus stirs her lids,

Rhodora’s cheek is crimson, —

She’s dreaming of the woods.”

Then, turning from them, reverent,

“Their bed-time ’t is,” she said;

“The bumble-bees will wake them

When April woods are red.”


My Rose.

Pigmy seraphs gone astray,

Velvet people from Vevay,

Belles from some lost summer day,

Bees’ exclusive coterie.

Paris could not lay the fold

Belted down with emerald;

Venice could not show a cheek

Of a tint so lustrous meek.

Never such an ambuscade

As of brier and leaf displayed

For my little damask maid.

I had rather wear her grace

Than an earl’s distinguished face;

I had rather dwell like her

Than be Duke of Exeter

Royalty enough for me

To subdue the bumble-bee!


The Oriole’s Secret.

To hear an oriole sing

May be a common thing,

Or only a divine.

It is not of the bird

Who sings the same, unheard,

As unto crowd.

The fashion of the ear

Attireth that it hear

In dun or fair.

So whether it be rune,

Or whether it be none,

Is of within;

The “tune is in the tree,”

The sceptic showeth me;

“No, sir! In thee!”


The Oriole.

One of the ones that Midas touched,

Who failed to touch us all,

Was that confiding prodigal,

The blissful oriole.

So drunk, he disavows it

With badinage divine;

So dazzling, we mistake him

For an alighting mine.

A pleader, a dissembler,

An epicure, a thief, —

Betimes an oratorio,

An ecstasy in chief;

The Jesuit of orchards,

He cheats as he enchants

Of an entire attar

For his decamping wants.

The splendor of a Burmah,

The meteor of birds,

Departing like a pageant

Of ballads and of bards.

I never thought that Jason sought

For any golden fleece;

But then I am a rural man,

With thoughts that make for peace.

But if there were a Jason,

Tradition suffer me

Behold his lost emolument

Upon the apple-tree.


In Shadow.

I dreaded that first robin so,

But he is mastered now,

And I ’m accustomed to him grown, —

He hurts a little, though.

I thought if I could only live

Till that first shout got by,

Not all pianos in the woods

Had power to mangle me.

I dared not meet the daffodils,

For fear their yellow gown

Would pierce me with a fashion

So foreign to my own.

I wished the grass would hurry,

So when ’t was time to see,

He ’d be too tall, the tallest one

Could stretch to look at me.

I could not bear the bees should come,

I wished they ’d stay away

In those dim countries where they go:

What word had they for me?

They ’re here, though; not a creature failed,

No blossom stayed away

In gentle deference to me,

The Queen of Calvary.

Each one salutes me as he goes,

And I my childish plumes

Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment

Of their unthinking drums.


The Humming-Bird.

A route of evanescence

With a revolving wheel;

A resonance of emerald,

A rush of cochineal;

And every blossom on the bush

Adjusts its tumbled head, —

The mail from Tunis, probably,

An easy morning’s ride.



The skies can’t keep their secret!

They tell it to the hills —

The hills just tell the orchards —

And they the daffodils!

A bird, by chance, that goes that way

Soft overheard the whole.

If I should bribe the little bird,

Who knows but she would tell?

I think I won’t, however,

It’s finer not to know;

If summer were an axiom,

What sorcery had snow?

So keep your secret, Father!

I would not, if I could,

Know what the sapphire fellows do,

In your new-fashioned world!


Who robbed the woods,

The trusting woods?

The unsuspecting trees

Brought out their burrs and mosses

His fantasy to please.

He scanned their trinkets, curious,

He grasped, he bore away.

What will the solemn hemlock,

What will the fir-tree say?


Two Voyagers.

Two butterflies went out at noon

And waltzed above a stream,

Then stepped straight through the firmament

And rested on a beam;

And then together bore away

Upon a shining sea, —

Though never yet, in any port,

Their coming mentioned be.

If spoken by the distant bird,

If met in ether sea

By frigate or by merchantman,

Report was not to me.


By the Sea.

I started early, took my dog,

And visited the sea;

The mermaids in the basement

Came out to look at me,

And frigates in the upper floor

Extended hempen hands,

Presuming me to be a mouse

Aground, upon the sands.

But no man moved me till the tide

Went past my simple shoe,

And past my apron and my belt,

And past my bodice too,

And made as he would eat me up

As wholly as a dew

Upon a dandelion’s sleeve —

And then I started too.

And he — he followed close behind;

I felt his silver heel

Upon my ankle, — then my shoes

Would overflow with pearl.

Until we met the solid town,

No man he seemed to know;

And bowing with a mighty look

At me, the sea withdrew.



Arcturus is his other name, —

I’d rather call him star!

It’s so unkind of science

To go and interfere!

I pull a flower from the woods, —

A monster with a glass

Computes the stamens in a breath,

And has her in a class.

Whereas I took the butterfly

Aforetime in my hat,

He sits erect in cabinets,

The clover-bells forgot.

What once was heaven, is zenith now.

Where I proposed to go

When time’s brief masquerade was done,

Is mapped, and charted too!

What if the poles should frisk about

And stand upon their heads!

I hope I ’m ready for the worst,

Whatever prank betides!

Perhaps the kingdom of Heaven ’s changed!

I hope the children there

Won’t be new-fashioned when I come,

And laugh at me, and stare!

I hope the father in the skies

Will lift his little girl, —

Old-fashioned, naughty, everything, —

Over the stile of pearl!


A Tempest.

An awful tempest mashed the air,

The clouds were gaunt and few;

A black, as of a spectre’s cloak,

Hid heaven and earth from view.

The creatures chuckled on the roofs

And whistled in the air,

And shook their fists and gnashed their teeth.

And swung their frenzied hair.

The morning lit, the birds arose;

The monster’s faded eyes

Turned slowly to his native coast,

And peace was Paradise!


The Sea.

An everywhere of silver,

With ropes of sand

To keep it from effacing

The track called land.


In the Garden.

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.


The Snake.

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 child, and barefoot,

I more than once, at morn,

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.


The Mushroom.

The mushroom is the elf of plants,

At evening it is not;

At morning in a truffled hut

It stops upon a spot

As if it tarried always;

And yet its whole career

Is shorter than a snake’s delay,

And fleeter than a tare.

’T is vegetation’s juggler,

The germ of alibi;

Doth like a bubble antedate,

And like a bubble hie.

I feel as if the grass were pleased

To have it intermit;

The surreptitious scion

Of summer’s circumspect.

Had nature any outcast face,

Could she a son contemn,

Had nature an Iscariot,

That mushroom, — it is him.


The Storm.

There came a wind like a bugle;

It quivered through the grass,

And a green chill upon the heat

So ominous did pass

We barred the windows and the doors

As from an emerald ghost;

The doom’s electric moccason

That very instant passed.

On a strange mob of panting trees,

And fences fled away,

And rivers where the houses ran

The living looked that day.

The bell within the steeple wild

The flying tidings whirled.

How much can come

And much can go,

And yet abide the world!


The Spider.

A spider sewed at night

Without a light

Upon an arc of white.

If ruff it was of dame

Or shroud of gnome,

Himself, himself inform.

Of immortality

His strategy

Was physiognomy.


I know a place where summer strives

With such a practised frost,

She each year leads her daisies back,

Recording briefly, “Lost.”

But when the south wind stirs the pools

And struggles in the lanes,

Her heart misgives her for her vow,

And she pours soft refrains

Into the lap of adamant,

And spices, and the dew,

That stiffens quietly to quartz,

Upon her amber shoe.


The one that could repeat the summer day

Were greater than itself, though he

Minutest of mankind might be.

And who could reproduce the sun,

At period of going down —

The lingering and the stain, I mean —

When Orient has been outgrown,

And Occident becomes unknown,

His name remain.



The wind tapped like a tired man,

And like a host, “Come in,”

I boldly answered; entered then

My residence within

A rapid, footless guest,

To offer whom a chair

Were as impossible as hand

A sofa to the air.

No bone had he to bind him,

His speech was like the push

Of numerous humming-birds at once

From a superior bush.

His countenance a billow,

His fingers, if he pass,

Let go a music, as of tunes

Blown tremulous in glass.

He visited, still flitting;

Then, like a timid man,

Again he tapped — ’t was flurriedly —

And I became alone.


Nature rarer uses yellow

   Than another hue;

Saves she all of that for sunsets, —

   Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,

   Yellow she affords

Only scantly and selectly,

   Like a lover’s words.



The leaves, like women, interchange

  Sagacious confidence;

Somewhat of nods, and somewhat of

  Portentous inference,

The parties in both cases

  Enjoining secrecy, —

Inviolable compact

  To notoriety.



How happy is the little stone

That rambles in the road alone,

And doesn’t care about careers,

And exigencies never fears;

Whose coat of elemental brown

A passing universe put on;

And independent as the sun,

Associates or glows alone,

Fulfilling absolute decree

In casual simplicity.



It sounded as if the streets were running,

And then the streets stood still.

Eclipse was all we could see at the window,

And awe was all we could feel.

By and by the boldest stole out of his covert,

To see if time was there.

Nature was in her beryl apron,

Mixing fresher air.


The Rat.

The rat is the concisest tenant.

He pays no rent, —

Repudiates the obligation,

On schemes intent.

Balking our wit

To sound or circumvent,

Hate cannot harm

A foe so reticent.

Neither decree

Prohibits him,

Lawful as



Frequently the woods are pink,

Frequently are brown;

Frequently the hills undress

Behind my native town.

Oft a head is crested

I was wont to see,

And as oft a cranny

Where it used to be.

And the earth, they tell me,

On its axis turned, —

Wonderful rotation

By but twelve performed!


A Thunder-Storm.

The wind begun to rock the grass

With threatening tunes and low, —

He flung a menace at the earth,

A menace at the sky.

The leaves unhooked themselves from trees

And started all abroad;

The dust did scoop itself like hands

And throw away the road.

The wagons quickened on the streets,

The thunder hurried slow;

The lightning showed a yellow beak,

And then a livid claw.

The birds put up the bars to nests,

The cattle fled to barns;

There came one drop of giant rain,

And then, as if the hands

That held the dams had parted hold,

The waters wrecked the sky,

But overlooked my father’s house,

Just quartering a tree.


With Flowers.

South winds jostle them,

Bumblebees come,

Hover, hesitate,

Drink, and are gone.

Butterflies pause

On their passage Cashmere;

I, softly plucking,

Present them here!



Where ships of purple gently toss

On seas of daffodil,

Fantastic sailors mingle,

And then — the wharf is still.


She sweeps with many-colored brooms,

And leaves the shreds behind;

Oh, housewife in the evening west,

Come back, and dust the pond!

You dropped a purple ravelling in,

You dropped an amber thread;

And now you ’ve littered all the East

With duds of emerald!

And still she plies her spotted brooms,

And still the aprons fly,

Till brooms fade softly into stars —

And then I come away.


Like mighty footlights burned the red

At bases of the trees, —

The far theatricals of day

Exhibiting to these.

’T was universe that did applaud

While, chiefest of the crowd,

Enabled by his royal dress,

Myself distinguished God.



Bring me the sunset in a cup,

Reckon the morning’s flagons up,

   And say how many dew;

Tell me how far the morning leaps,

Tell me what time the weaver sleeps

   Who spun the breadths of blue!

Write me how many notes there be

In the new robin’s ecstasy

   Among astonished boughs;

How many trips the tortoise makes,

How many cups the bee partakes, —

   The debauchee of dews!

Also, who laid the rainbow’s piers,

Also, who leads the docile spheres

   By withes of supple blue?

Whose fingers string the stalactite,

Who counts the wampum of the night,

   To see that none is due?

Who built this little Alban house

And shut the windows down so close

   My spirit cannot see?

Who ’ll let me out some gala day,

With implements to fly away,

   Passing pomposity?


The Juggler of Day.

Blazing in gold and quenching in purple,

Leaping like leopards to the sky,

Then at the feet of the old horizon

Laying her spotted face, to die;

Stooping as low as the otter’s window,

Touching the roof and tinting the barn,

Kissing her bonnet to the meadow, —

And the juggler of day is gone!


My Cricket.

Farther in summer than the birds,

Pathetic from the grass,

A minor nation celebrates

Its unobtrusive mass.

No ordinance is seen,

So gradual the grace,

A pensive custom it becomes,

Enlarging loneliness.

Antiquest felt at noon

When August, burning low,

Calls forth this spectral canticle,

Repose to typify.

Remit as yet no grace,

No furrow on the glow,

Yet a druidic difference

Enhances nature now.


As imperceptibly as grief

The summer lapsed away, —

Too imperceptible, at last,

To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled,

As twilight long begun,

Or Nature, spending with herself

Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,

The morning foreign shone, —

A courteous, yet harrowing grace,

As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing,

Or service of a keel,

Our summer made her light escape

Into the beautiful.


It can’t be summer, — that got through;

It ’s early yet for spring;

There ’s that long town of white to cross

Before the blackbirds sing.

It can’t be dying, — it’s too rouge, —

The dead shall go in white.

So sunset shuts my question down

With clasps of chrysolite.


Summer’s Obsequies.

The gentian weaves her fringes,

The maple’s loom is red.

My departing blossoms

Obviate parade.

A brief, but patient illness,

An hour to prepare;

And one, below this morning,

Is where the angels are.

It was a short procession, —

The bobolink was there,

An aged bee addressed us,

And then we knelt in prayer.

We trust that she was willing, —

We ask that we may be.

Summer, sister, seraph,

Let us go with thee!

In the name of the bee

And of the butterfly

And of the breeze, amen!


Fringed Gentian.

God made a little gentian;

It tried to be a rose

And failed, and all the summer laughed.

But just before the snows

There came a purple creature

That ravished all the hill;

And summer hid her forehead,

And mockery was still.

The frosts were her condition;

The Tyrian would not come

Until the North evoked it.

“Creator! shall I bloom?”



Besides the autumn poets sing,

A few prosaic days

A little this side of the snow

And that side of the haze.

A few incisive mornings,

A few ascetic eyes, —

Gone Mr. Bryant’s golden-rod,

And Mr. Thomson’s sheaves.

Still is the bustle in the brook,

Sealed are the spicy valves;

Mesmeric fingers softly touch

The eyes of many elves.

Perhaps a squirrel may remain,

My sentiments to share.

Grant me, O Lord, a sunny mind,

Thy windy will to bear!


The Snow.

It sifts from leaden sieves,

It powders all the wood,

It fills with alabaster wool

The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face

Of mountain and of plain, —

Unbroken forehead from the east

Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,

It wraps it, rail by rail,

Till it is lost in fleeces;

It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, —

The summer’s empty room,

Acres of seams where harvests were,

Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,

As ankles of a queen, —

Then stills its artisans like ghosts,

Denying they have been.


The Blue Jay.

No brigadier throughout the year

So civic as the jay.

A neighbor and a warrior too,

With shrill felicity

Pursuing winds that censure us

A February day,

The brother of the universe

Was never blown away.

The snow and he are intimate;

I ’ve often seen them play

When heaven looked upon us all

With such severity,

I felt apology were due

To an insulted sky,

Whose pompous frown was nutriment

To their temerity.

The pillow of this daring head

Is pungent evergreens;

His larder — terse and militant —

Unknown, refreshing things;

His character a tonic,

His future a dispute;

Unfair an immortality

That leaves this neighbor out.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53