Search This Blog

16 October 2012

She sights a Bird—she chuckles—

She sights a Bird—she chuckles—
She flattens—then she crawls—
She runs without the look of feet —
Her eyes increase to Balls—

Her Jaws stir —twitching—hungry—
Her Teeth can hardly stand —
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first—
Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,

The Hopes so juicy ripening—
You almost bathed your Tongue—
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes—
And fled with every one—
                                                                                          F351 (1862)  507

Ah, Dickinson is not one of those cat owners who struggles to keep her cat from killing birds. Fortunately for the birds of Amherst, the poet’s kitty isn’t quick enough—or at least isn’t quick enough for the robin of this poem.
                  Anyone who has watched a cat stalk a bird can see it recreated in this charming poem. It’s meant to be read, and I picture it read with lots of acting and out and gestures. I bet Dickinson entertained her young nieces and nephews with it.
                  The first two stanzas describe the cat creeping up on the bird, practically salivating in anticipation, but then being disappointed. The third stanza changes from third person to second person as the speaker addresses the cat directly in a mock sympathetic tone. The last two lines portray “Bliss” as being so fleet and hard to catch that it is as if it has “a hundred Toes.” Poor kitty—its bliss fled with all hundred of them.
                  Dickinson employs a very regular structure: each stanza has two lines of iambic trimeter, a line of iambic tetrameter, and then another of trimeter. It’s a very recitable meter. The rhyme scheme is ABCB, which helps the verbal enjoyment.  


  1. Thanks! I couldn’t get the “hundred toes.”
    Love your blog. Reading all poems with aid of your great insights!

  2. Love the chuckling cat

  3. A delightful poem for entertaining nieces and nephews, yes, although her only one was Ned, age 1 when ED recorded this poem.

    I hesitate to repeat my myself, but here goes: NEVER, EVER UNDERESTIMATE THE COMPLEXITY OF EMILY DICKINSON!!!!!

    She has dangled so many shiny lures in front of us, like Pussy, I cannot resist the temptation to leap.


  4. ED offered an alternative for the first line in Stanza 2:
    "Her mouth stirs - longing - hungry—".

    ED's editors have unanimously used:
    "Her Jaws stir —twitching—hungry—".

    Better poetry, or is the alternative too suggestive, especially in the context of Stanza 3:

    "The Hopes so juicy ripening—
    You almost bathed your Tongue—
    When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes—
    And fled with every one—"

    You see where this is going. Offended? Hit the delete key.

  5. Letter [L30] from Emily Dickinson to Jane Humphrey. ED met Jane at Amherst Academy, which ED attended for 7 years, 1840-1847.

    “23 January 1850 [ED turned 19 in December 1849.]

    "Dear Jane.

    "I have written you a great many letters since you left me - not the kind of letters that go in post-offices - and ride in mail-bags . . . . I will try one of those - tho' not half so precious as the other kind. I have written those at night - when the rest of the world were at sleep - when only God came between us - and no one else might hear. No need of shutting the door - nor of whispering timidly - nor of fearing the ear of listeners - for night held them fast in his arms that they could not interfere - and his arms are brawny and strong. Sometimes I didn’t know but you were awake - . . . . were we together in any of those nights? I do love - and remember you Jane - . . . .
    "They say you are teaching in Warren - are happy - then I know you are good - for none but the good are happy - you are out of the way of temptation - and out of the way of the tempter - I didn't mean to make you wicked - but I was - and am - and shall be - and I was with you so much that I couldn't help contaminate. Are you ever lonely in Warren - are you lonely without me - very lonely the last to be sure - but I want to know…………

    Very sincerely yrs-
    Emily E. Dickinson.”