A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides —
You may have met Him — did you not
His notice sudden is —

The Grass divides as with a Comb —
A spotted shaft is seen —
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on —

He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn —
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot —
I more than once at Noon
Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone —

Several of Nature’s People
I know, and they know me —
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality —

But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone —

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

37 Comments

  1. Jo says:

    the snake actually meant phallus.

  2. Patrick says:

    And Zero at the Bone. What does it mean

  3. strong christian girl says:

    I did a poem analysis and i believe that this poem is saying the snake is the devil and all evil. When she says zero at the bone I believe she means when she has no feelings and no kindness and she says that in the line “Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
    Unbraiding in the sun, –
    When, stooping to secure it,
    It wrinkled, and was gone.” is that when you are trying to uncover the evil it slips through your fingers leaving only it’s skin behind and in the line A narrow fellow in the grass
    Occasionally rides;
    You may have met him, -did you not?
    His notice sudden is.

    The grass divides as with a comb,
    A spotted shaft is seen;
    And then it closes at your feet
    And opens further on.

    He likes a boggy acre,
    A floor too cool for corn.
    Yet when a child, and barefoot,
    I more than once, at morn,

    Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
    Unbraiding in the sun, –
    When, stooping to secure it,
    It wrinkled, and was gone.
    “Several of nature’s people
    I know, and they know me;
    I feel for them a transport
    Of cordiality;”
    i think she is saying that there is also good in the world and she has seen it
    but i strongly believe that emily dickinson, a strong christian like myself was talking about the devil because in the bible, when the world is created, the devil comes to adam and eve in the form of a snake and encourages them to eat a fruit from the forbidden tree.
    i may be way off line but these are my beliefs and all of those who believe this is a saxual poem
    GO TO CHURCH!!!

  4. strong christian girl says:

    I did a poem analysis and i believe that this poem is saying the snake is the devil and all evil. When she says zero at the bone I believe she means when she has no feelings and no kindness and she says that in the line “Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
    Unbraiding in the sun, –
    When, stooping to secure it,
    It wrinkled, and was gone.” is that when you are trying to uncover the evil it slips through your fingers leaving only it’s skin behind and in the line
    “Several of nature’s people
    I know, and they know me;
    I feel for them a transport
    Of cordiality;”
    i think she is saying that there is also good in the world and she has seen it
    but i strongly believe that emily dickinson, a strong christian like myself was talking about the devil because in the bible, when the world is created, the devil comes to adam and eve in the form of a snake and encourages them to eat a fruit from the forbidden tree.
    i may be way off line but these are my beliefs and all of those who believe this is a saxual poem
    GO TO CHURCH!!!

  5. English Major says:

    After reading some of the comments, I decided to say something. Emily Dickinson wrote poems in certain categories. For her first volume, Higginson grouped them together as Life, Love (Marriage), Nature, Time, and Eternity (Immortality). She had a deep seated love of nature, especially her garden and the valleys of Connecticut. Her appreciation of nature grew even stronger under the guidance of Ben Newton. This poem represents, to me, one of her nature poems, about one of the few aspects of nature she feared: a snake.

    A few areas I most see this in are as follows.

    In the line “The Grass divides as with a comb” I picture the snake slithering through a field. I have seen this in real life, and it does part the grass neatly.

    In lines 9 and 10, where Dickinson mentions a “Boggy acre” and a “floor too cool for corn” she describes popular resting places for a snake.

    In the line where she mentions a “whiplash unbraiding in the sun”, the snake is coiled and resting. When the narrator reaches to fetch it, the snake uncoils and slithers away.

    As for the last stanza, the narrator is expressing their fear of the snake. When you are afraid of something, do you not feel a certain tightening in your chest, or a chill in your bones?

  6. Teralyn Pilgrim says:

    I have a question: you guys keep saying we’re “ruining a good poem” by “making it about sex.” Why is the poem bad just because it’s about sex? Is there a problem with sexuality? I don’t think we’re the ones being immature.

  7. Teralyn Pilgrim says:

    From what I can gather, none of Dickenson’s poems are literal: she commonly uses a symbol to represent something else. I’ve read that she also commonly writes about genitalia and uses phallic symbolism often. The “snake” in this poem doesn’t even act like a snake. It does things in the poem that can really only describe a penis. Example: “When, stooping to secure it, It wrinkled, and was gone.” The tighter breathing and zero and to bone makes more sense from a sexual standpoint than a natural one, especially since there are plenty of animals more dangerous than a snake. Although I haven’t read much of her stuff personally, I’ve read that Dickenson is deep and morbid… definitely not someone who would write about a real snake.

  8. chas calz says:

    I wrote a paper on the poem in summer school many years ago . I was perplexed by the phrase “zero at the bone ” which I interpreted as stone-cold fear .Recently I was shocked to read in the newspaper the teacher who taught the poem , a very sedate spinster , , was murdered by her brother-in-law .

  9. hl says:

    zero to the bone doesn’t mean goosebumps. it means frozen fear, not necessarily the physical goosebumps.

  10. Patricia George says:

    The snake. Whenever you meet one unexpectedly, you experience a flight or fight response. The zero at the bone refers to goosebumps. Lighten up folks.

  11. Katrina says:

    We looked this poem over in my English class and all of us students thought it was a snake, but my teacher thought it was an African American slave…

  12. Fabiana says:

    I am so confused i can see the snake but what is she talking bout when she says zero at the bone? Last stanza. I don’t know but i have to analize this poem so i need help. Keep up with the comments so that i can get some ideas! But i do see the sexuality to it

  13. ea says:

    I think she is talking about a sneaky kind of person — one who can’t be pinned down. And who likes to startle people by sort of appearing and disappearing. I think her last stanza is quite filled with contempt, saying he (the snake) is tight-assed, so to speak, and has no real spine, or has nothing real to offer. Yes, she uses the experience of seeing an actual snake to paint this portrait. The unbraiding of the sun is like when a snake moves through a field of golden dried grasses and this describes how it looks; I’ve seen it. One thing that’s always struck me about this poem is how odd the second to the last stanza is — it seems to stand on its own as a proverb. (the one about feeling cordiality) but it further emphasizes how all of nature is welcome except the snake. Sexual or not, the snake of the bible or not, she just doesn’t like sneakiness and dishonesty.

  14. islandgirl says:

    for me, everyone is free to interpret this poem as he feels, it can have a sexual connotation but I can’t justify yet or maybe I’m too much influenced by your misplaced remarks…

  15. Xavi says:

    The poem can be interpreted literally, but that is hardly an interpritation. She was a sexually repressed women who remained a virgin her entire life. She was also rejected by the man she loved. Those who dont think it’s sexual at all are not looking at the whole picture of who she was. This poem definitely has an intentional sexual connotation to it.

  16. Turk says:

    its “Unbraiding in the sun” … unbraid means to undo the braids of .. like unbraid my hair or a whip lash like it is in the poem.

  17. KRo says:

    What does she mean by “Unbraiding the sun” in then 6th line of stanza 3?

  18. G says:

    I dont beleive this poem is simply about a snake. It is not like Emily Dickinson to write a completely literal poem. Yes it is describing a snake but there has to be something else to it. Dickinson’s poems were all very deep in metaphor and allegory.

  19. Peter says:

    This poem was published in 1866 and probably composed in 1865 (according to the WWW). For those who would give it a “Freudian” interpretation, note that Sigmund Freud was born in 1856. I don’t quite believe that this poem is sexual. It is certainly not explicitly “Freudian”.

  20. Stefan Lynch says:

    I never knew, until reading this thread, about the Conspiracy Theory School of literary criticism.

  21. Ron says:

    the date this poem was written should have been included with the poem.

  22. Tom says:

    The poem is most definitly sexualy in it’s theme. The last two stanzas do show incredible fear, but the fear of some one who is sexually inexperinced and also at the same time filled with lust and passion.

  23. Anna says:

    I think all of you who assume this poem has a sexual meaning- are crazy! I think as teenagers- we tend to focus on sex more than almost anything else- so you can pretty much turn anything into something sexual! But come on! This poem is not “hiding” secret sexual innuendos- it’s easy to understand that what is being described here is a real snake- a boy trying to catch it- and her fear of snakes (hence the “but never met the Fellow attended, or alone without a tighter breathing”) can you breath when your scared?? Most likely, no!

  24. Pops says:

    we went over it in a college class and the teacher said it’s about masterbation

  25. Eric Hunley says:

    I don’t understand why yall are making this out to be a bad poem. I would like to see yall write poetry as beautiful as emily. D-bags!

  26. Kailey says:

    This poem is well written and an interesting description of nature. I have one question for thoses who say the poem has a sexual connatation, explain the 4th and 5th stanza in any other way than describing a snake. I can see what you mean in the 3rd stanza, but that conclusion is contradicted by the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th stanza if you analyze them all together, seeing them connected instead of them all carrying their own meaning.

  27. david says:

    why does the poet never actually gives a description of a snake?

    What is the diction in this poem?

    what are the rhyming the are noticeable?
    Please i need this by tonight sunday

  28. albany says:

    The first time i read this poem i thought snake,but as you read it again,especially when she says “more than once at noon” shes getting a nooner.you never meet him without tighter breathing,she is describing the excitment she feels with her man.i think this is definitley sexually suggestive.

  29. Deb says:

    This is definately sexual. Emily Dickinson did not title her poems; the publishers titled it “snake.” The title “snake” makes the reader miss the sexual symbols of the poem.

  30. Christa says:

    this poem is definately written in a sexual nature. if you don’t see that you have to be crazy. even if you don’t know about psychoanalytical reading and freudian theory you could still pick out tha this has many sexual connotations in it. If you notice, almost all of the words that could be construed as sexual w/o directly stating them are capitalized.

  31. Alan says:

    The poem is about a snake and her fear of them. Poetry does not always have to analyzed so deeply that you draw out things that are likely not there. If anything because of her learning about Transcendentalism, this could be an outlet of what she was learing about appreciating nature. Also, she may identify with the snake because of its reclusive nature and her desire to be reclusive. Don’t over analyze or be so asanine when analysizing poetry.

  32. Arielle says:

    I think this poem is talking about a snake and how she feels about nature. In many ways Emily Dickinson can relate to nature. The snake is sudden she says you might stop when you see it’s bone. Now the question that I ask myself is Emily Dickinson scared of nature.

  33. jess says:

    personally.. i found this poem to be quite contradicting.. she states a “narrow fellow in the grass” but if you read the poem with an open mind.. it has almost a sexual connotation to it.. anyone agree?

  34. M-dog says:

    I enjoyed the heart felt feeling of this poem….
    NOT SUCKERS this poem stinks like a fish in a suitcase!!!!!

  35. bob says:

    Well, you see, this is more of an explicit metaphor. This poem is also titled “A Snake” in some books. When it says “The grass divides as with a comb,” she is talking about how the body of a snake parts the grass. And later on it seems she is affraid of snakes (last stanza). Im sorry if this is not in depth enough, but its best if you do most of your own annalysis, then its easier to talk about.

  36. Bob says:

    She is talking about a snake.

  37. Denise says:

    I am not sure what animal she is speaking about. Please let me know what this poem is all about. This is a homework assignment. Thanks for your help.

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