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Analysis and comments on I dreaded that first Robin, so, by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 29 of 419, added on December 2nd, 2009 at 11:35 AM.

It is easy to read this poem in any number of ways, as it is for all of
Dickinson's poems -- that's why we love them so much! :) -- but perhaps it
should be read both ways.

Dickinson lost several people very close to her, and a poem about
bereavement would not be amiss. If you read it as spring embodying life,
then spring would be a sort of slap to the face if she has just experienced
a painful death. She is mourning, and in pain, but the rest of the world is
laughing at her, and proceeding on with spring ... "They're here, though;
not a creature failed - / No Blossom stayed away / In gentle deference to
me - / The Queen of Calvary - "

Dickinson was not particularly religious, so the reference to Calvary, the
place of Jesus's crucifixion, is probably a parallel to death and not
religion. If applied in that light, she would appear to be saying, "All I
know is death. I'm still in mourning, I haven't moved on ... and yet spring
comes anyway, it cares nothing for my own sorrows."

However -- it if you read it as Robin is a man, not a bird, the meaning
changes full circle. (Readings of this sort can be seen with "I like a look
of Agony" as well.) It could be read as a sexual relationship from start to
finish, but it would have to be a fairly unfortunate one, for the ending,
"Each one salutes me, as he goes," would imply that it was a casual
encounter that meant more for her than it did for Robin.

If it is read as purely a relationship, it fits a little better with the
story of Dickinson's life. There is evidence that she was in love, perhaps
several times, but no indications that these relationships where ever
actuated, much less made physical. The dread of the first Robin could be
seen as the uncertainty of her first true relationship, and a belief that
if she could bear the first awkward phase, that it would be better
afterward. The Daffodils could be other women or friends who disapprove of
her choice, the Grass stanza a wish for him to come and see her. The Bees
could be a metaphor for "busy-bees," or gossips, who care little about her
and are only interested in the drama. They came anyway, though, and she is
hurt by them. Possibly this is a reference to these Bees ruining
everything, or ending in some way the relationship with Robin.

There are a thousand ways to read this, and all have their merits ... these
are the readings I feel have the most evidence to support them. :)

Sara from United States
Comment 28 of 419, added on June 4th, 2009 at 2:38 PM.

You are all wrong this is clearly some old, lonely rug-muncher wishing she
could get a bit of real action with Robin on the side. You guys are just
can't read deep enough into the poem.

Number One from United Kingdom
Comment 27 of 419, added on May 17th, 2009 at 11:39 PM.

I find it highly illogical to reason that the robin is a man and that the
poem as a whole relates to marrage since Dickinson never married. Her love
life consisted of a harsh critic of her poetry who lead her into
disillution and a reverend. It is common sence to reject this theory
because of her love life background. Analization of her other poems would
help to arrive at the conclution that the poem is most likely about her
rejection to change.

Liliana from United States
Comment 26 of 419, added on July 1st, 2008 at 9:03 PM.

Sorry but I can't go along with any of the "Robin as male lover" ideas. The
poem always struck me as dealing with the central tragedy of life -- all
this beauty is subsumed under the cycle of birth and decay, and the more
you long for something, you are unwittingly accentuating the sadness of its
inevitable passing. The drums at the end are jolting to the sense, as if
the poet has suddenly and unbearably perceived the whole show as a funeral
procession.

Tad from United States
Comment 25 of 419, added on April 16th, 2008 at 7:58 PM.

What makes the death/grieving the best interpretation is that she calls
herself the "Queen of Calvary." Calvary is defined as 1 : an open-air
representation of the crucifixion of Jesus 2 : an experience of usually
intense mental suffering (MW dictionary). Essentially she is referring to
herself as the Queen of Death, hence why spring (symbolizing life) hurts
her.

In the first and second stanzas, the first spring (signaled by the robin's
appearance and "pianos in the woods," birds) is depicted as painful to the
speaker, who has just lost someone to death. She is afraid of meeting these
blatant symbols of life. Her admission that "he hurts a little though"
reveal that her grief has not completely dissolved; her powerlessness to
stem the coming of spring (shown by her weary statement "they're here,
though") also relate this same emotion.

So, as time and nature continue to march on to their "unthinking drums,"
the speaker is forced to acknowledge that life must go on.

nm from United States
Comment 24 of 419, added on February 24th, 2008 at 2:43 PM.

I think Emily Dickinson is talking bollocks.

Whats she mean by "not all pianos in the woods?"

Nathan Goodfirend
Comment 23 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:27 AM.

I think Emily based this poem on her own life -specificaly her comming to
terms with death. She had many deaths early on in her life which affected
her greatly.
She thought if she could get past 'that first shout' (of someone dying) it
would become easier, and it has done even though He(Death) still 'hurts a
litle' everytime he comes.
I love the way she inverts the classic notion of spring representing life
and new begginings to represent death, especially the daffodils which i
picture to be daffodils planted on the graves of those she loved.

Jo from United Kingdom
Comment 22 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:14 AM.

I think Emily Dickinson is talking about marriage; she personifies the
robin as a man perhaps. 'But he is mastered now' could mean that she is
accepting the fact that she is married and she has to live with it, similar
to the marriage vows "till death do us part". Emily is saying that she is
dedicated to her husband and that she feels that he owns her, she is
‘accustomed to him grown' means that she owes him her body and the right to
take her virginity. She says that she 'dare not meet the daffodils', maybe
meaning that she dare not look at other men as it is a sin now that she is
married. She fears that being married will change her and it will be an
irrevocable change that can not be changed.

Careena from United Kingdom
Comment 21 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:26 AM.

At first glance i think emily's poems look interesting but look very
complicated. Then once you break the poems down and look deeper into them
one realises how amazing they are and how much meaning she put into every
word.
I think this poem is truly amazing. Although it can be interpretated in
many ways i feel that the main interpreation is of a sexual nature.

number 1 fan! from Iraq
Comment 20 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:15 AM.

The comment made by 'mg' of the United States interests me. Although I
agree that the poem highlights Dickinson's fear of change, I think it may
stem from a worry deeper than just relationships. It could be interpretted
that Dickinson uses the symbols of spring and nature to highlight time
passing- a notion she is scared of as it brings about death and a sense of
lonliness, both of which haunted Dickinson throughout her life. It could,
therefore, be believed that Dickinson inverts the common idea of spring to
in fact draw upon the thought that the passing of time is a negative thing,
but not solely in terms of relationships.

J to the Bizzle from Peru

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Information about I dreaded that first Robin, so,

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 348. I dreaded that first Robin, so,
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 30880 times
Poem of the Day: Nov 27 2002


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