I'm hardly justified
In sending all the Birds away —
And moving into Pod —
Myself — for scarcely settled —
The Phoebes have begun —
And then — it's time to strike my Tent —
And open House — again —
It's mostly, interruptions —
My Summer — is despoiled —
Because there was a Winter — once —
And all the Cattle — starved —
And so there was a Deluge —
And swept the World away —
But Ararat's a Legend — now —
And no one credits Noah —
F531 (1863) J403
Cynthia Griffin Wolff proposes Nature as the speaker of this lighthearted poem (Emily Dickinson, 284-5). After all, it is Nature who causes the birds to migrate and puts the developing seed into pods; Nature who hibernates in her tent until time to have summer "open House – again".
One could easily read the poem's speaker as Dickinson herself. Most of the first three stanzas can be plausibly read as from her point of view. This wouldn't be the first time she has placed herself at the hub of the seasons, perhaps most notably in "I dreaded that first Robin, so" (F347) where the creatures and blossoms of spring arrive punctually "in gentle deference" to her and then salute her as they depart. But why would she ramble on here about cattle and floods?
I'm drawn to Wolff's idea, but would refine the voice as stream of consciousness from an exasperated and rather flighty Mother Earth. Mother gets frustrated with all the "interruptions", with how fast time flies ("What's the sense of sending off birds and tucking myself in for the winter? I just get comfortable and then the Phoebes are back! Now I have to get everything ready again.")
She has other complaints, too. Her precious Summer has been "despoiled" because a harsh winter ("Oh, I don't remember when … Once …) killed the cattle. That means no gamboling little calves and no fresh milk. And also, she continues, dredging up old grudges against whatever idiot is in charge of weather, there was that big deluge that drowned the world, that flood where Noah packed all the animals into an ark. "But no one believes that story anymore." I hear the housewife complaining about the husband making her job harder and the lamentable views of the modern world.
No matter who the speaker is, the liveliness and pertness of the voice add a lot of charm.
The poem is written in short-meter ballad form: abcb rhyme-scheme quatrains in iambic trimeter – except for the third tetrameter line of each stanza. This is a popular variant of the traditional ballad structure with the reverse trimeter/tetrameter structure: 4-4-3-4 syllables.) The second and fourth lines rhyme. Dickinson often uses slant rhymes and does so here. I particularly like her pairing of "Noah" with "away", which really zings the "w" sound, adding to others in the stanza: was, swept, world, now, one. "Despoiled" and "starved" have little but an "s" and an "ed" in common, but they are probably the strongest words in the poem, both in sense and sound; their uniqueness is not diminished by a closely-rhymed sound.