'A Bird Came Down' by Emily Dickinson

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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, splashless, as they swim.

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Bird Came Down: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation


When it comes to American poetry, Emily Dickinson is a name that cannot be skipped. Her unique style, her use of dashes, and her unorthodox themes have made her poetry stand out even after 130 years since her death. One of her most famous poems, "A Bird Came Down," captures Dickinson's love for nature, her fascination with death, and her exploration of the human condition. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the poem's structure, meaning, and relevance.


"A Bird Came Down" is a short poem consisting of six stanzas, each with four lines. The poem follows a consistent rhyme scheme, with the first and third lines rhyming with each other, and the second and fourth lines rhyming with each other. The poem's brevity and simplicity make it easy to read and understand, but the poem's meaning and underlying themes require a closer look.


On the surface, "A Bird Came Down" is a poem about a bird. However, as with most of Dickinson's poetry, the poem's meaning goes beyond the literal. The bird in the poem represents life, and the narrator represents death. The poem is a commentary on the inevitable cycle of life and death, and how we must all face our mortality.

The first stanza sets the stage for the poem. The bird comes down from the sky and hops around, unaware of its surroundings. This represents life's innocence and naivety, as we often go through life without fully understanding its complexities. The second stanza introduces the narrator, who watches the bird from afar. The narrator's distance from the bird represents death's detachment from life. The third stanza introduces the idea of death, as the bird looks up and sees that the sky is "narrower than the eye." This line represents the limitations of life and how death makes us see things differently.

The fourth stanza describes the bird's reaction to death. The bird starts to sing, as if in defiance of death. This represents life's resilience in the face of death. The fifth stanza describes the narrator's reaction to the bird's song. The narrator is moved by the bird's song, but also saddened by the realization that the bird is singing its own funeral dirge. This represents the bittersweet nature of life and how we must all eventually face death.

The final stanza is the most ambiguous, but also the most powerful. The bird flies away, and the narrator is left wondering what the bird's fate will be. The line "And sore must be the storm" represents the inevitability of death and the pain that comes with it. However, the line "That could abash the little bird" represents the bird's resilience and how life will always find a way to endure.


Despite being written over a century ago, "A Bird Came Down" is still relevant today. The poem's themes of life, death, and resilience are universal and timeless. We all have to face our mortality, and we all have to find ways to cope with the inevitability of death. The poem's brevity and simplicity make it accessible to all readers, regardless of age or background. The poem's use of nature as a metaphor for life and death also makes it easy to relate to.

In today's world, where death is often ignored or feared, "A Bird Came Down" reminds us of the beauty and importance of life, and the resilience we all possess. The poem encourages us to appreciate life's innocence and naivety, to live in the moment, and to find ways to cope with the pain of loss. It also reminds us that, no matter how difficult life may seem, there is always hope.


"A Bird Came Down" is a beautiful, powerful, and timeless poem that captures the essence of life, death, and resilience. Dickinson's use of nature as a metaphor, her unique style, and her exploration of the human condition make "A Bird Came Down" one of her most enduring works. The poem's relevance today, despite being written over a century ago, is a testament to Dickinson's genius and the universality of her themes.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry A Bird Came Down: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Masterpiece

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. Among her many masterpieces, "A Bird Came Down" stands out as a shining example of her unique style and poetic genius. In this article, we will delve into the depths of this classic poem and explore its themes, imagery, and symbolism.

The poem begins with a simple yet powerful image: "A bird came down the walk." This opening line immediately draws the reader's attention and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The bird is described in vivid detail, with its "softening in the sunshine" and "hops of his dimpled feet." Dickinson's use of sensory language creates a vivid picture in the reader's mind and draws them into the world of the poem.

As the poem progresses, the bird's actions become more complex and symbolic. It "unrolled a feather" and "let a beetle pass." These actions may seem insignificant at first glance, but they hold deeper meaning. The unrolling of the feather could represent the bird's shedding of old ways or ideas, while the letting of the beetle pass could symbolize the bird's acceptance of other creatures and their place in the world.

The poem's central theme is the relationship between nature and humanity. Dickinson explores this theme through the bird's interactions with the human world. The bird is described as "civilly" passing by the speaker, suggesting a sense of mutual respect and understanding between the two. However, the bird's flight is also described as "faltering," suggesting that even the natural world is not immune to the struggles and challenges of life.

The poem's imagery is rich and evocative, with Dickinson using a variety of sensory details to create a vivid picture of the bird and its surroundings. The "softening in the sunshine" and "dimpled feet" create a sense of warmth and comfort, while the "bobolinks for a carpet" and "orchard for a dome" suggest a natural beauty and grandeur.

Dickinson's use of symbolism is also noteworthy. The bird itself could be seen as a symbol of freedom and independence, while the beetle could represent the smaller, less significant creatures of the world. The unrolling of the feather could symbolize the shedding of old ways or ideas, while the bird's faltering flight could represent the struggles and challenges of life.

Overall, "A Bird Came Down" is a masterpiece of American poetry, showcasing Emily Dickinson's unique style and poetic genius. Through its vivid imagery, rich symbolism, and exploration of the relationship between nature and humanity, the poem continues to captivate and inspire readers to this day.

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