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13 November 2011

“Mama” never forgets her birds

“Mama” never forgets her birds,
Though in another tree –
She looks down just as often
And just as tenderly
As when her little mortal nest
With cunning care she wove –
If either of her "sparrows fall,"
She "notices," above.
                                                      - F130 (1860)  164

In his discussion of this poem, David Preest suggests it was written to Dickinson’s cousins after their mother died. It certainly sounds as if it were written to console little girls. She indicates two sparrows in the poem with “either” of the sparrows falling, and she had two cousins.
            Heaven here is “another tree” from which the dear departed can still watch what goes on on earth. This sounds so much like a platitude, however, that Dickinson may not have actually believed it. But her efforts at consolation, here and in other consolation poems, indicate a warm and sympathetic heart.
            The poem is written in strict ballad or hymn form.

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