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 Emily Dickinson's poem A narrow Fellow in the Grass

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?

Leave a Reply to Teralyn Pilgrim Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Emily Dickinson better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.