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Unbelievable! Emily might know something about S-E-X!. You wouldn’t believe what Sigmund Freud made of this!. A narrow Fellow in the Grass. 11 th March 2014. A narrow Fellow in the Grass Occasionally rides— You may have met him? Did you not His notice instant is—

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a narrow fellow in the grass

Unbelievable! Emily might know something about S-E-X!

You wouldn’t believe what Sigmund Freud made of this!

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

11th March 2014

slide2

A narrow Fellow in the GrassOccasionally rides—You may have met him? Did you notHis notice instant is—

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

He likes a Boggy Acre—A Floor too cool for Corn—But when a Boy and BarefootI more than once at Noon

Have passed I thought a Whip LashUnbraiding in the SunWhen stooping to secure itIt wrinkled And was gone—

Several of Nature’s PeopleI know and they know meI feel for them a transportOf Cordiality

But never met this FellowAttended or aloneWithout a tighter BreathingAnd Zero at the Bone.

consider these readings
Consider these readings…
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY35GOrnx2Q
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaKkd4nQ5o0
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqSVe86Ki6E
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8AY5-mh0SE
slide4

‘Rides’ is a strange verb to use here – how does the snake ‘ride’?

Dickinson refers to the snake as a ‘fellow’ suggesting that she is personifying the creature.

A narrow Fellow in the GrassOccasionally rides—You may have met him? Did you notHis notice instant is—

Note how she addresses the reader directly with a rhetorical question. This is the question mark that Dickinson’s sister-in-law moved to the end of the line causing Dickinson to write a letter in which she complained about it. This suggests that she was carefully crafting her poems.

Note how she switches the syntax around here. Is she saying that we notice him directly or that he notices us? It could be that she wants us to think of both – we notice each other at the same moment and are equally scared.

slide5

If the snake is supposed to be scary then this simile is not very threatening – the grass is like hair being parted. There seems to be curiosity in how it is moving.

Lots of alliteration in this line – perhaps it reflects the snake’s movement. Note how it ‘is seen’ – by whom? Dickinson depersonalises it to involve us all in the movement.

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

But now she is directing it as us – the reader – by the use of ‘your’. The snake seems to be moving away – who is more scared?

Note how the closing and opening, coupled with the anaphora (‘and’), really gives us a sense of the snake’s movement.

slide6

There is a sense of companionship with the snake – we really get the feeling that Dickinson knows the creature. Again there is a sense of personification here.

There is a feeling that Dickinson really understands the snake and what he likes. But wait…

He likes a Boggy Acre—A Floor too cool for Corn—But when a Boy and BarefootI more than once at Noon

…Once again Dickinson throws us off. She isn’t the poem’s narrator. Rather, she has adopted the voice of a man remembering when he was a boy. Why does she do this? Surely a girl could do exactly what the boy does?

We’re into a reminiscence here. Can we rely on the voice of the poem now we know ED has adopted a different persona? She keeps us in suspense at the end of the verse – WHAT has she done?

slide7

The word ‘unbraiding’ might suggest that the whip is coming apart. However, perhaps Dickinson wants it to have other meanings – maybe the narrator’s understanding is unravelling. It could also link to our understanding of who is the narrator!

This continues the reminiscence. The whip lash (the end of the whip) is something that would have interested a boy in the 1860s.

Have passed I thought a Whip LashUnbraiding in the SunWhen stooping to secure itIt wrinkled And was gone—

Alliteration again here!

There seems to be a bit of a blur between the human and the inanimate world. Does this add to a general feel of confusion in the poem?

By using ‘it’, Dickinson almost suggests the whip has come to life. Could this be more personification? She lets us realise the mistake the narrator has made.

slide8

Who are ‘Nature’s People’? Is she referring to other people? More likely she is referring to animals but, the fact she refers to them as ‘people’ who ‘know’ her develop the personification.

This seems to be repetitious yet it emphasises the closeness between the narrator and nature.

Several of Nature’s PeopleI know and they know meI feel for them a transportOf Cordiality

A strange way of saying things. She seems to be suggesting that the narrator has a close connection with nature beyond just a liking.

This suggests friendliness – again a strange way of referring to her/his link with nature.

slide9

It has been suggested that this verse refers to sex – the snake = the penis and her reaction possibly is comparable to orgasm. Once you’ve thought of this, think back to what we’ve already read. The snake divides the grass, it transports her etc etc.

Back to referring to the snake as a fellow. Unlike the other creatures for whom she/he felt cordiality, the snake causes negative feelings.

But never met this FellowAttended or aloneWithout a tighter BreathingAnd Zero at the Bone.

If she IS writing about sex then she is not very impressed. The breathing and ‘zero at the bone’ don’t seem to be particularly positive reactions.

Exactly what Dickinson means here is unclear – it is probably her way of saying that it chills her to the marrow. In other words, she/he likes nature…except for the snake.

summary
Summary
  • We are back to more of a narrative poem.
  • What is Dickinson saying about nature?
  • Why do you think she seems to adopt this alternative male persona?
  • Consider the suggested interpretation of the poem (especially the last verse) as an extended sexual metaphor. Do you think this is tenable or is it a 21st century interpretation that would not have occurred to Dickinson?
  • This may be worth watching:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mla8WZxJ79E

themes
THEMES

How can you link this poem to others?

Things to consider:

Nature

Narrative voice