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Emily Dickinson's "Morns like these – we parted"

Emily Dickinson's poems inform my own worldview as a poet and scholar. They dramatize the human spirit via deep attention to life's details.

Emily Dickinson - This daguerreotype is likely the only extant, authentic image of the poet.

Emily Dickinson - This daguerreotype is likely the only extant, authentic image of the poet.

Introduction and Text of "Morns like these – we parted"

Emily Dickinson's speaker is creating a drama from the act of bird watching which covers a single day from morning, the time during which one bird and she parted company, to the act in evening of drawing the curtains, simultaneously hearing a bird fly off to its own abode.

The mental gymnastics of the speaker reveals a special gift of qualifying the experience of the human mind intrigued by the bird's ability to fly in the freedom of the open skies, indicating that this drama has often play out in the speaker's mind.

Morns like these – we parted

Morns like these – we parted –
Noons like these – she rose –
Fluttering first – then firmer
To her fair repose.

Never did she lisp it –
It was not for me
She – was mute from transport –
I – from agony –

Till – the evening nearing
One the curtains drew –
Quick! A sharper rustling!
And this linnet flew!

Reading of "Morns like these – we parted"

Commentary

This riddle poem offers an accumulation of evidence that the speaker has observed a bird, as it also suggests the speaker’s intense longing to experience what the bird is able to experience.

First Stanza: Observing a Bird

Morns like these – we parted –
Noons like these – she rose –
Fluttering first – then firmer
To her fair repose.

Observing the behavior of her feathered friends, this poem’s speaker avers that on certain mornings she has watched as a bird will make its way heavenward leaving her earthbound but astounded by the ability of an earth creature to fly through the sky.

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In addition to morning flights, the speaker has experienced the magic also around noontime. The creature with wings first may seem to merely "flutter[ ]," but then suddenly with more determined force has glided to her chosen destination.

The speaker remains spell-bound by the ability of the bird to choose the strength of her flight patterns. Instead of following a mere predetermined, instinctual routine, the bird, to this speaker, seems to communicate intention and definite thought. The bird does not blindly wend its way hither and yon, but it goes through its motions with deliberation.

Second Stanza: Experiencing Awe

Never did she lisp it –
It was not for me
She – was mute from transport –
I – from agony –

As the bird begins its magical journey, it does not communicate vocally in song or chirp to the speaker's presence. Having nothing to impart to its observer, it merely begins its flight. The speaker assumes that the bird's silence is caused merely by her "transport" of the felicity of flight.

The speaker remains "mute" merely from "agony"—the sudden awareness that she will remain earthbound while this marvelous creature will ascend and vanish skyward. The speaker’s heart has so identified with the bird that she would so cherish the ability to ascend with that creature to understand its experience. But knowing she cannot accomplish such a feat the speaker experiences a pang of intense regret and longing.

Third Stanza: The Close of a Drama

Till – the evening nearing
One the curtains drew –
Quick! A sharper rustling!
And this linnet flew!

All this drama of observation and bird flight goes on from morning to evening, nigh to which someone in the home closes the window curtains. From without comes the "rustling" which is quick and sharp, as the bird—now identified as a "linnet"—flies off.

The speaker's thought have been suddenly snapped to attention by this final sudden movement of the flying creature which she has so patiently watched in wonder. The speaker's mind has flown with the bird, waited as the bird waited, now drops its object as the bird has rustled its feathers for the last time that day and flown off to some destination that will remain a mystery to the speaker.

The speaker’s earth-bound experience comes crashing in on her mood once again, with the painful realization that she cannot continue to commune with the creature. The bird’s ability to fly through the air has taken the speaker’s intense musing from mere observation to intense longing to final resolution that nature remains such glorious mystery, despite the fickle flutterings of the human heart and mind.

The text I use for Dickinson poem commentaries

The text I use for Dickinson poem commentaries

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes

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