At Half past Three, a single Bird
Unto a silent Sky
Propounded but a single term
Of cautious melody.

At Half past Four, Experiment
Had subjugated test
And lo, Her silver Principle
Supplanted all the rest.

At Half past Seven, Element
Nor Implement, be seen —
And Place was where the Presence was
Circumference between.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem At Half past Three, a single Bird


  1. baron von baron says:

    What it means is clear as day. I don’t understand why it seems to confuse people because she could not have been more clear on what the meaning is and her part in it and how it arrives to her and how she sees herself and the quality of her work and the predicament she finds herself whenever she’s in the place surrounded by the presence. How can this be a hard poem when it is one of the easiest poems to understand on the face of the planet since the beginning of time. In three small verses she describes where the poetry and music come from, what you have to do to receive it, and what you cannot do or use in the process and where it’s at and who is there with her. she also mentioned how she sees the quality of her work and compares it to silver. I suspect she was being humble.
    The poet and songwriter Joseph Wolff talks about it in his poetry book called “The Place of Love”
    A fine collection of lyrics and poetry that is highly illuminating.

  2. Mick says:

    Although different people see different things in poetry and a person doesn’t always have to understand a poem completely, I too, was having difficulty enjoying this poem because I could not grasp any of what the author was conveying. I appreciate Andrew’s explanation. Thank you

  3. Nick Tselepides says:

    The poem is not that difficult to understand. A.D. is just trying to capture images from a train station experience–what she saw and her thought about it.

    That is all there is to it.

  4. andrew says:

    The last line is the one that has
    always stuck in my head and which
    occasionally just pops into it from
    out of nowhere at moments when people vanish
    like – you’re in a train station – the opposite
    platform is crowded – in your boredom you observe
    those people – their shopping bags, their shoes,
    their mannerisms – then their train pulls up – it
    takes them all in – through the window you may catch
    a part of a familiar torso, an aspect of a hairstyle
    that had caught your attention, a jacket that you’d admired – then the train is gone – the opposite platform stands empty – a crisp packet you saw one of the departed passengers eating blows along the platform – a newspaper someone was reading lies on a seat – they’re gone – the moment of them and that place has gone – gone forever into the mists of time – the orbiting mists – the mystery is the circumference

  5. Noel says:

    I heard this poem again about 25 years after reading it for the first time at school. I didn’t make a fist of it then and still can’t. I can understand most of her popular poetry, but this is an exception.
    Perhaps it is simply off the wall, or she was smoking at the time.
    I’d love to hear a comment on what it means.

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