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

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[41] 42

Comment 19 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:18 AM.

This poem can be interpreted in many different ways, but I think Emily
Dickinson personifies the "robin" as being a man and the poem is
reminiscent of a developing relatiionship. Emily does not seem prepared for
the relationship and she writes that he is "mastered" perhaps revealing a
man and wife relationship where the man has the upper hand. I also think
that this poem reflects a natural cycle, e.g. the forming of relationships
and the loss of her virginity. In this poem it seems she is afraid of
change-"i dared not meet the daffodils" as if she does not want to except
the change of season reflecting perhaps her change of relationshiip with a
man. I think the loss of Emily's virginity is something that is apparant
within the poem and the nature reflects fertilisation and perhaps
pregnancy, something Emily seems afraid of.

Me from United Kingdom
Comment 18 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 17 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:14 AM.

I believe the meaning of this poem lies in the various interpretations of
what or who the Robin symbolises.
If we take the poem at face value and take the Robin to be nothing more
than a robin then the poem clearly centres on the beauty and boldness of
nature. With Dickinson being such a clear lover of nature, this reading is
completely possible, with repeated reference to aspects of spring, the
daffodils, bees and blossoms.
However, I believe there is much more to this poem than just an
appreciation for the seasons. Many of her poems centre on themes of death,
love and relationships.
If the robin becomes symboic of a male figure then the whole reading of the
poem is turned on it's head. "He hurts a little though" becomes a possible
reference to either a sexual encounter or to a painfull emotional one. The
interesting use of the verb "mangle" in the second stanza implies a
transformation from childhood to maturity brought about by her first sexual
I believe it is more likely that the male figure and her encounter with it
is that of her father, or to other dominant male figures in her life of
which there were many. Many feminist ideas are shown throughout this poem,
the idea of "gentle indefference" implies disrespect towards her and the
domminance and monotonous image of the "unthinking drums" could be
interpreted as the cold, unfeeling attitude of men towards women in society
at the time.
"The yellow gown" could be interpreted as a wedding gown which feels
"foreign" to her, and she is forced to raise her "childish plumes" to the
men that pass through her life.

These are just a few readings and i know there are many more.

♥♥♥clare♥♥♥ from United Kingdom
Comment 16 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:17 AM.

I feel that this poem has a sense of nostalgia as it concerns the loss of
childhood. When Dickenson's "childish plumes lift in bereaved
acknowledgment of the unthinking drums" she is exploring the journey from
innocence to experience, which is manifested through the enevitable cycle
of nature.

loz from Colombia
Comment 15 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:11 AM.

'I dared not meet the daffodils,' here Dickinson is expressing fear of
change, the word 'dared' poses the idea of fear and the image of
'daffodils' represent nature and the passing of seasons. Perhaps the fear
could be about change brought by a relationship underlined in the first
stanza, 'But he is mastered now,'

Dame Helen from Jamaica
Comment 14 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:15 AM.

For me "I dreaded that first robin so" is the cry or scream for freemdom
from a female oppressed by those around her ( a higher power) it feminst
undertones seem clear especially in the last stanza "Each one salutes me as
he goees...of their thinking drums".

The personna in the poem seems to go on some sort of journey into womanhood
"mastering" her fear of the first robin (a symbol that could be seen as a
romantic relationship) to the realisation of her own worth "...the tallest
one could stretch to look at me."

And while the sexual connotations of pierecing, birds and bees could
clearly over take the text as one of it's key themes- (Of they depiction of
a woman coming to terms with the idea of losing her vriginity) It seems to
be that this text has so much more than that more the detailed description
of a women dealing with letting some on into her life- even though they may
tainted her with their "Yellow gowns...so foreign to her own" and allowing
them to view a private part of her being. While allowing herself to be
effortlessly drawn to the hauntingly beautiful "piano in the woods"

Alexis from Cuba
Comment 13 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 5:26 AM.

I feel that this is about feminism. 'I

josephine from United Kingdom
Comment 12 of 419, added on February 7th, 2008 at 12:14 PM.

If we carefully look at this poem we can see that although it appears to be
a poem that could be seem as feminist, that there is a running theme of a
male presence throughout 'I dreaded that first robin so'. One
interpretation is of males being the 'robin', the 'pianos in the woods',
the 'daffodils', the 'grass' and the 'bees'. These things in nature could
be personified as a man as they all affect Emily Dickinson in some way,
whether it is a fear of a sexual act or of falling in love. The poem also
has the fear of nature coming round again which brings her closer to death,
which is another thing she is fearful of.
Emily Dickinson can also refer to the 'he' that 'salutes her' and goes by
her as any man that would not treat her with respect and an 'unthinking
drum'. The 'tall' man looking for her in the grass would be 'the tallest
one' referring to the man as being perhaps God or the Grim Reaper, who she
can't hide from even in nature.
So this poem has a female element shown by Dickinson when she makes
references to males that are like bees with stings or daffodils that are
foreign to her. As she belives although it is inevitable she will fall in
love, she wouldn't want anyone distrupting her current way of life.

Nix from Armenia
Comment 11 of 419, added on March 14th, 2007 at 1:53 PM.

“I dreaded that first Robin, so,” – Emily Dickinson

This poem was written in circa 1862, when Emily Dickinson’s production of
poems was at its apex. By this time her lifestyle had changed and there
are suggestions that she had been affected…
- perhaps a suggestion of rejection
- a spiritual or religious rejection
…as a result, Dickinson became a withdrawn person, somewhat of a recluse.
Clearly, as the “Queen of Calvary” (Calvary being the mountain on which
Christ was crucified, suggesting extreme suffering – an embodiment of
torment) she found aspects of life painful and difficult, I ask you to
question whether in this poem, she finds confronting the boldness and
audacity of nature a painful experience. Although there are many
suggestions of her losing her virginity, the imagery is transparent, and
can be interpreted in many ways.

Some possible readings of the poem…

- A quiet, socially withdrawn hermit suddenly confronted by the richness,
the profusion, the unruliness of nature. Something which, at this time in
her life, was completely opposite to her, she felt threatened and
challenged by it.

- The “Robin” which she so dreads, could symbolise the change from winter
to spring, its rich red breast and urge to survive emphasises for
Dickinson, the richness of life. It evokes in her, anxiety.

- “But he is mastered now” – Dickinson has become used to the sight of the
Robin, it is a common sight in spring and she knows that she has to adapt.
She is “some accustomed” but still feels somewhat uncomfortable in its

- “Till that first Shout got by” – could be an image of / a reference to
birdsong. In contrast with the winter, the birdsong of spring is
significantly much louder, also, take into account that she lived in rural
Massachusetts, in spring, the birds would flock in by the thousands.
Perhaps the apparent happiness of the birdsong depresses her. Furthermore,
Birdsong is territorial (Birds ‘sing’ to ward off other birds from their
nesting areas), perhaps she feels as if her space, her home, has been
invaded by these hostile, protective birds. Her reference to “Pianos in
the woods” suggests that too, like the Robin, she eventually gets used to
the bird song. “Pianos” is another term for a ‘soft sound’.

- “I dared not meet the Daffodils” – the “Yellow Gown(s)” of the daffodils
are bright, colourful, fashionable (for the season), makes her feel dull
and dowdy. The bright colours “pierce” her vision, they dazzle her. In
comparison to her traditional, simple clothes, the daffodils seem
“foreign”, they are bold and elegant and majestic – and they do not hide

- “I could not bear the Bees should come” – again, she compares the bees to
herself and is depressed/threatened. The bees have a purpose – they are
here to pollinate, create new life, make honey, reproduce – they are the
fertilisers of Mother Nature, and what is she? A reclusive spinster – she
feels inadequate, unproductive.

- “I wished the Grass would hurry” – this is a problematic stanza for me.
Perhaps Dickinson urges the grass to grow so she can hide herself in it, a
sort of camouflage. Perhaps she feels that if the grass is taller than she
is, it cannot see her – but at the same time, it will smother her,
overshadow her and ultimately look down on her.

- “They’re here, though; not a creature failed -” Despite her feelings,
nature is unavoidable. Nature is not kind to her, it does not respect her
(deference) and so, she suffers – and so she thinks – she suffers more than
anyone, she is the “Queen” of suffering. Nature existentially crucifies
her. NB: Nature is amoral, indifferent to her – why should it stay away
just for her? It is important to consider whether Dickinson realises this.

- “Each one salutes me, as he goes” – Although she is hostile to nature, it
is not hostile back. They acknowledge her – the plants and bees and birds.
And it is the boldness of nature, its productivity, freshness, vitality,
that makes her feel ultimately “childish”. In comparison, she is not as
serious as nature, she is just a ‘half-cracked poetess’.

- “Lift, in bereaved acknowledgement” – bereaved because… she realises that
opportunities to make something of her life have gone – is she too old for
love and productivity? Has she been stained by the lowly status of

- “Of their unthinking Drums” – for me, this is an image of the loudness of
nature, its extravagance; how all the colours, smells, noises, feelings or
nature really jump out at Dickinson, how they contrast painfully to the
dreariness of her life. This boldness however is “unthinking” – nature is
unaware of her, it doesn’t flaunt itself on purpose – that’s just the way
it is. The birds sing, the bees buzz, the grass grows and the daffodils
salute her and dazzle her with their colours – but not intentionally. Her
conflict with nature is entirely personal.

So, to conclude, I think that this poem is a personal poem, a somewhat poem
of confession. It is Dickinson’s “cri de Coeur” (cry from the heart).
Developing into a recluse and being affected by what could possible be a
love/sexual rejection, she looks at her own life and sees how dull she is,
compared to the vitality of everything around her. It is vital to explore
how she presents nature (as this is a core theme of hers) in other poems.
In “There’s a certain slant of light” she explores how winter affects her –
perhaps she suffers seasonal affective disorder. If however, this poem is
a poem about sexual intercourse, and losing her virginity, I believe that
there is only so much to write about. There are limited quotations to
comment on other than that of “Piercing” “shout” and the personification of
“Him”. It may be an underlying theme, although the poem, at least to me,
is dominated by nature. In an exam, I would certainly take this stance on
the poem, as it is also easier to link with other poems.

Hope this helps somebody!

Paddy F from United Kingdom
Comment 10 of 419, added on February 15th, 2007 at 9:13 AM.

I think this poem is about her yearnings to be a lesbian. There are lots of
references to being 'hurt' by 'piercing', indicating the male phallus, and
that she is extremely uncomfortable with this. the references to nature are
symbolic of the 'coming' of the male, which is about being impregnated, and
its clear that she has a fear of this. The daffodils also don't accept her,
which I take to mean that she isn't following 'fashion' by being
heterosexual. I get the feeling that she just wants to push away all parts
of the overbearing patriarchal society that constricts her. If we look at
another of her poems, we see the same desire to rid herself of the threat
of masculinity:
'If only I could but brush away
the strands your life consumed,
each comb, each groom,
each tremendous pull -
would lift my eyes so gay.

If only I could but sweep aside
Dead leaves upon my Heart,
And cast them scattered
With joyous sound -
On your retreating tide.

I think this tries to say the same thing about 'sweeping' aside the
shackles of heterosexuality, and joyously throwing them into the eternal

Rial from United Kingdom

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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: 30938 times
Poem of the Day: Nov 27 2002

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