Posted in Emily Dickinson, Life lessons, Nature, Poem Analysis, Poetry, reality

The Bitter Truth

The poem is a pragmatic realization of life’s uncertainty and unreliability. Analyzing the poem on a literal level, one would observe Emily Dickinson seemingly describing a banal ordinary event of a bee who being unable to hold on to a “single clover plank”; in other words, a clover leaf, a simple blade of grass used as a plank is swept away by strong gusts of wind and seizes to exist to which Dickinson exaggerates and delineates it as a “harrowing event”.

A single Clover Plank
Was all that saved a Bee
A Bee I personally knew
From sinking in the sky —

‘Twixt Firmament above
And Firmament below
The Billows of Circumference
Were sweeping him away —

The idly swaying Plank
Responsible to nought
A sudden Freight of Wind assumed
And Bumble Bee was not —

This harrowing event
Transpiring in the Grass
Did not so much as wring from him
A wandering “Alas” —

However, one must carefully bear in mind that reading Dickinson’s poems require an in-depth exploration of the poet’s imagination and a conveyance from a literal level into the figurative meaning of her imagination.  Hence, the clover plank is naturally unsteady and temporary; added to this, the poet further defines the plank to her readers; “The idly swaying Plank/ Responsible to nought”, thus the plank is a connecting bridge between a “firmament” and steady above and below. Here the poet does not specify what is denoted by above and below but leaves the  readers to distinguish it themselves, according to which I believe that above and below suggest two extremists of possibly religion, god, ideas or even acquainted persons. The most significant symbol is the protagonist of the poem; the “bee” who is possibly symbolical of the poet herself and the rest of the world including the readers. In the light of this world, the poets or generally the entire humanity is swept away by the “billows of circumference” symbolically indicating the various inevitable forces of nature that inflict us where from we are led to hold on to a “plank” that we believe would save us from destruction and tragedy. These “billows of circumference” are metaphoric of catastrophic disasters to life-threatening  illnesses.

Thereby, on a more figurative level, agreeing to the metaphoric symbols of the poem, it is then indeed a “harrowing event” whereby the poet and the rest of humanity relies on to an incomplete, brisk matter that is entirely abstract and lacks specificity. We can therefore draw a contrast between the certain extremities and the uncertain salvation. Dickinson further affirms this uncertainty with a second gust of strong winds during which the bee; thereby we, are deprived of a said redemption and hence, seize to exist leaving no space for contemplation or comprehension; Did not so much as wring from him/ A wandering “Alas”. This is the cognizance of life’s reality such that we are most likely to be dependent on something that is entirely “responsible to nought” possibly out of desperation, agony and hopelessness. However helpless, the poet claims not to forget this uncertainty of life and the instability and nothingness of the world we live in, that despite the mere hope and expectations something might provide us during our lifetime, too much indulgence and gratification would only lead us to our demise.