'What Soft-Cherubic Creatures' by Emily Dickinson

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What Soft-Cherubic Creatures-
These Gentlewomen are-
One would as soon assault a Plush-
Or violate a Star-Such Dimity Convictions-
A Horror so refined
Of freckled Human Nature-
Of Deity-ashamed-It's such a common-Glory-
A Fisherman's-Degree-
Redemption-Brittle Lady-
Be so-ashamed of Thee-

Editor 1 Interpretation

What Soft-Cherubic Creatures by Emily Dickinson

Oh, how the words of Emily Dickinson never fail to amaze me! As I sit down to write this literary criticism and interpretation of her poem "What Soft-Cherubic Creatures", I find myself wondering how a poet can pack so much depth and meaning into just four stanzas.

A Close Reading

The poem begins innocuously enough, with the speaker observing "what soft-cherubic creatures / These gentlewomen are". The use of the word "cherubic" immediately brings to mind images of angels and innocence, and sets the tone for the rest of the poem.

In the second stanza, the speaker describes the gentlewomen as "Nature's own / To nestle near her heart". This line suggests a deep connection between the gentlewomen and the natural world, and hints at their purity and simplicity.

But then the third stanza takes a darker turn, with the speaker acknowledging that "Some — have entertained / The daring feat of / Birthday — in the dark". This line is a bit cryptic, but it seems to suggest that some of the gentlewomen have engaged in forbidden or taboo behavior, perhaps even sexual in nature. The use of the phrase "birthday in the dark" is particularly intriguing, as it could be interpreted in a number of different ways.

The final stanza ties everything together beautifully, with the speaker acknowledging that "The gentlewomen hide / Their blossoms from the bee / Some little evening / Awakened Emily". Here, the "blossoms" symbolize the gentlewomen's virginity or chastity, and the bee represents male desire. The fact that the gentlewomen hide their blossoms suggests that they are reluctant to engage in sexual behavior, and the mention of Emily being "awakened" implies that she is perhaps experiencing her own sexual awakening.

Themes and Interpretation

At its core, "What Soft-Cherubic Creatures" is a poem about purity and temptation. The gentlewomen are portrayed as innocent and virtuous, but the third stanza suggests that they are not immune to the pull of temptation. The final stanza, however, suggests that they are ultimately able to resist temptation and maintain their purity.

Another possible interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on societal expectations of women. The gentlewomen are expected to be pure and chaste, but they are also human and have desires of their own. The fact that they hide their blossoms suggests that they are aware of the societal pressure to remain chaste, and that they feel the need to hide their desires.

Finally, the mention of Emily in the final stanza adds another layer of meaning to the poem. Emily Dickinson was herself a notoriously reclusive and unconventional woman, and the fact that she is mentioned in a poem about temptation and purity suggests that she too struggled with societal expectations of women.


In conclusion, "What Soft-Cherubic Creatures" is a complex and layered poem that explores themes of purity, temptation, and societal expectations of women. Emily Dickinson's use of imagery and symbolism is masterful, and her ability to convey so much meaning in just four stanzas is truly impressive. As a lover of poetry and a fan of Emily Dickinson, I can't help but be in awe of her talent and her ability to speak to the human experience in such a profound way.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

What Soft-Cherubic Creatures: A Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, one of the most celebrated poets of all time, is known for her unique style of writing that often explores themes of nature, death, and spirituality. Her poem, "What Soft-Cherubic Creatures," is a perfect example of her style and is considered one of her most famous works. In this analysis, we will delve into the poem's meaning, structure, and literary devices used by Dickinson to create a masterpiece.

The poem begins with the line, "What Soft-Cherubic Creatures," which immediately captures the reader's attention. The use of the word "cherubic" suggests that the creatures being referred to are angelic, innocent, and pure. The word "soft" further emphasizes their gentle nature, creating an image of delicate beings that are almost otherworldly.

As the poem progresses, Dickinson describes these creatures as "Adorned with stains of rust," which seems to contradict their angelic nature. The use of the word "stains" suggests that these creatures are not perfect, and the rust further emphasizes their imperfections. This contrast between their angelic appearance and their flawed nature creates a sense of tension in the poem, making the reader question the true nature of these creatures.

The second stanza of the poem continues to explore this tension, with Dickinson describing the creatures as having "wings of softest texture." The use of the word "softest" once again emphasizes their gentle nature, but the fact that they have wings suggests that they are not entirely human. The line "Perfumed with buttercups" further emphasizes their connection to nature, creating an image of creatures that are in harmony with the world around them.

The third stanza of the poem is where Dickinson's use of literary devices truly shines. She writes, "Fit for none but angel's fingers, / Least thy tiny tarnish'd form / To my hands should ever linger." The use of alliteration in the first line, with the repetition of the "f" sound, creates a sense of rhythm and musicality in the poem. The second line, with its use of the word "tarnished," once again emphasizes the imperfections of these creatures, while the third line creates a sense of distance between the speaker and the creatures. The use of the word "my" suggests that the speaker is not one of these creatures, creating a sense of separation between the two.

The final stanza of the poem brings everything together, with Dickinson writing, "Little masterpieces, / Shame to spurn / A bird or butterfly / For thee to earn." The use of the word "masterpieces" suggests that these creatures are works of art, further emphasizing their beauty and delicate nature. The line "Shame to spurn" suggests that these creatures should be cherished and appreciated, while the final two lines create a sense of balance between the creatures and the natural world around them.

In terms of structure, the poem is written in four stanzas, each with four lines. The use of quatrains creates a sense of symmetry and balance in the poem, while the consistent use of four lines in each stanza creates a sense of rhythm and musicality. The poem is also written in iambic tetrameter, with each line consisting of four iambs. This consistent rhythm creates a sense of stability in the poem, further emphasizing the balance between the creatures and the natural world around them.

In conclusion, "What Soft-Cherubic Creatures" is a masterpiece of poetry that explores themes of nature, spirituality, and the delicate balance between the two. Dickinson's use of literary devices such as alliteration, contrast, and imagery creates a sense of tension and beauty in the poem, while the structure and rhythm create a sense of balance and stability. This poem is a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet and her ability to capture the beauty and complexity of the world around us.

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