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

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Comment 7 of 407, added on April 3rd, 2006 at 1:43 PM.

I tend to agree with the comments from Swampfoye. But , I would add the
following: Dickinson seems to be saying that, despite her resistance to
feeling better about herself and her life, Nature lifted her up. Nature did
not care about her profound insecurities and self-pity. It embraced her in
a positive way. The poem is optimistic about the healing powers of the
physical beauty of the world outside. Humans may be judgmental, but Nature
is not.
The poem shows an accelerating trust in Nature that culminates in
capitulation--reluctantly, but willingly feeling better about oneself.

Greg from United States
Comment 6 of 407, added on March 24th, 2006 at 12:32 PM.

I had always thought that "Queen of Calvary" meant that she was speaking
from the point of view of herself lying in the grave, who died in the
winter, and was afraid of the pain it would cause her the first time a
robin, harbinger of spring, chirped. She was reconciled to her own
wintertime death because she left behind winter's desolation, but she
feared that the first robin would bring up a bitter sense of loss, since
she won't be around for summer.

So the first and second verses are about her fear that sound she can no
longer hear will cause her pain; the third and fourth are about how the
yellow color of the daffodil will do the same, and how she wanted the grass
to hurry up and grow over her grave, either to keep the flowers from seeing
her in death, or to keep her from seeing the flowers -- I can't quite tell
which; the fifth could be her reference to sex, since the bees visiting the
flowers often seem to refer to sex in her poems, and here she says they
have nothing to say to her now.

In the sixth and seventh, she says they all came back; none deferred to her
fears, and all salute her, even though they don't realize it, and she
returns the salute, even in her bereavement.

But Miriam from UK has a very interesting idea in thinking it's Winter,
personified. That fits, too. ED certainly personfies Summer in "The birds
reported from the south...".

Or maybe it's LAST summer personified? In that case, why would she be the
Queen of Calvary? Well, that would continue the thought in "The birds
reported from the south" that Summer mourns for her dead.

John from United States
Comment 5 of 407, added on June 12th, 2005 at 5:31 AM.

I have to disagree with those of you who say that this poem is about the
loss of Dickinson's virginity. For a start, I do not think that she is
writing this from her own perspective, as it is clear (as someone pointed
out) that she loved nature. In my opinion Dickinson has adopted the persona
of 'winter' here, and is imagining, if it has or could have 'feelings' what
it would be 'thinking'. This becomes clear especially in the third stanza
when it is mentioned that the fear of the daffodils is because they might
'pierce me with a fashion So foreign to my own', ie the flowers are going
to grow, piercing through the wintery frost and hard soil, and bringing
colour into the world of 'shadow' (this is the actual title of the poem)
that winter has enjoyed. The referral to the bees also, and the 'dim
countries' reinforces the idea that this is the season of winter speaking,
as she asks 'what word had they for me?' - she wants to know what is
happening in the place that winter must establish itself next. The next
clue as to this is the speaker self titles themselves the 'Queen of
Calvary'. I don't see how this could be Dickinson herself, although she had
an obsession with death, I do not think she would refer to herself as that.
Instead, it could be reinterpreted perhaps as the 'Queen of Death', hence,
winter. In short I would say the poem describes the reluctance of winter to
leave and make way for spring (ie the gradual process of death being
replaced by new life and shadow by colour, etc etc).

Miriam from United Kingdom
Comment 4 of 407, added on May 2nd, 2005 at 7:13 PM.

After her other poems celebrating her fondness for the weather, nature and
the changes, she can’t possibly be saying she dreads the spring? This one
man, perhaps, that she’s noticed, singled out, she was afraid of until ‘he
is mastered now’ – has she got control of him? ‘I’m some accustomed to him
grown’ – She was afraid of sex – but she grew accustomed to him. (Most
women do) - He hurts a little though – perhaps this is about her losing
her virginity.

In the second paragraph, she thinks if she could just make it through the
FIRST time, she could survive the loss of her virginity, that she could
overcome both nature and nurture.

She is keeping her relationship unknown – she isn’t like the others – She
can’t even dare to look at them. They are so far above her. The bee’s
perhaps are all the attention that she gets, when really she wants them all
to go away so she could just be alone with him, the Robin. And even though
she is ‘Queen of Calvary’ and making her suffering so obvious – but the
other courters, other men, still pass, with admiration, even as she pouts,
like a child.

Swampfaye from United States
Comment 3 of 407, added on March 17th, 2005 at 3:24 AM.

I had always assumed that Dickinson feared the coming of the Spring because
it would throw into relief what she had endured through the Winter. The
Spring serves to remind her, or highlight through comparison, all that
Dickinson denies herself through her withdrawal from society.

She has accepted that she can no longer partake in the rich vitality of a
society emerging from its Winter slumber, so she must be content to watch,
to remember when she could enjoy what others benefit from. I have always
assumed that her references to the pianos in the woods related to the
harmonic music of returning birds, which would drift in to her room and
remind her of what lies ahead - a season of growth, fertility and
celebration, all of which lie beyond her immediate grasp.

Her reference to the Queen of Calvary reiterates her role as sufferer here,
and though she wishes all of Nature to pass her by, or to leave her alone,
it will not. These events recognise and greet her - "salute" - unaware of
the difficulties they provoke. Anxiety sufferers often feel cut off from
the world, and see it as uncaring. They want to go outside and play in the
sunshine but the fear is almost unbearable.

Just as an earlier post assumed this poem was about sex (Dickinson could be
extremely playful at times) I have always thought she was exploring her
agoraphobia through this piece. When it is winter nobody spends any
significant time outside so Dickinson was able to soothe her anxiety.
However, when Spring arrives, so does her desire to enjoy the outside world
run headfirst into her panic when faced with external environments.

Dickinson must have been fascinated by her mental condition. Fear of fear
itself must have played upon her constantly: "dread", "dared not", "Could
not bear". I believe this poem possibly explores her fascination with a
world that frightened her, a world which seemed indifferent to her mental
sufferings - but of course it would be because her fear was all in her

James from United Kingdom
Comment 2 of 407, added on March 14th, 2005 at 3:16 PM.

I was on eMule.com looking though Emily's poems when I came upon the first
line... "I dreaded that first robin, so" and the first thing I thought
of... "spring!"

but then I kept reading... by the last line of the first stanza I saw "He
hurts a little, though"

and then I thought it was about losing her virginity (although, because her
letters were never released [burned by her own wishes, I think?] there is
litter information about a lover)

but I could gather...
robin would refer to spring which often symbolizes mating, love, motherly
essence (womanhood... arrived when virginity is lost)

the Robin could possibly be sex, the first robin being when she first had

In addition, we gather that the Robin is a he by the fourth line context

I dreaded that first robin so,
(she dreaded the first time having sex)
But he is mastered now,
(it doesn't hurt after awhile...)
And I'm accustomed to him grown,--
(I'm not going to read into that, you can)
He hurts a little, though.
(think about that)

I thought if I could only live
Till that first shout got by,
(going on through the same idea as the fourth line)
Not all pianos in the woods
Had power to mangle me.
(it really hurts! I'm not trying to be immature or anything but I truly
think that is what this poem is about)

In addition, you can't base your whole perception of the poem on the first
line... especially when robin is understood to be a metaphor. Therefore,
the fact the metaphor changes throughout the length of the entire product
shows that the robin=spring parallel is not necessarily the most acceptable

I dared not meet the daffodils,
For fear their yellow gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own.
(this could be understood to be her fear of pregnancy. moderately

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?
(BEES!! ok... first a mention of a BIRD then a BEE! the Birds and the
Bees? Cliche, and I'm not sure if that analogy dates back that far, but
the simple choice of words can mean a lot!!)

ok... so spring is understood but I would like to put up the idea of a
deeper (har har) meaning? Loss of virginity... a common thing in our
beloved spring

Rae from United States
Comment 1 of 407, added on January 8th, 2005 at 4:49 PM.

We needed to read the poem "I dreaded that first Robin so" by emily
dickenson for our honors english class. I thought that maybe it was about
the coming of spring (but I could be off) and i figured that had to be a
metaphore for something, possibly pain or death....if anyone has any idea
what this poem is about please email me at azul1084@yahoo.com or aim -
xsilentwhisper7x....thank you so much

rachel from United States

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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: 29777 times
Poem of the Day: Nov 27 2002

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