Trees

Emily Dickinson

The Trees like Tassels hit – and – swung
There seemed to rise a Tune
From Miniature Creatures
Accompanying the Sun –

This poem is written by Emily Dickinson, who was famous for her copious use of personification, simile and lots of dashes in a sentence. The poet has described the beauty of a sunny day.

The trees are dancing like tassels. The tuft of loosely held bunch of strings at the end of drawstrings, and decorative strings in dresses is called tassel. Here, the poet has used the example of tassels at the end of drawstrings of curtains which sway in a dancing motion with every whiff of air. Deep in the wood, tiny creatures (like bugs and beetles) are making music which is accompanied by the Sun.




Far Psalteries of Summer
Enamoring the Ear
They never yet did satisfy
Remotest – when most fair

Psaltery is a string instrument which was in vogue during medieval times. The music of the nature is like the music of psaltery. According to the poet, the music is not enough as she is not satisfied and wants more of it.

The Sun shone whole at intervals
Then Half – then utter hid
As if Himself were optional
And had Estates of Cloud
Sufficient to enfold Him
Eternally from view
Except it were a whim of His
To let the Orchards grow

The Sun is shining as per his mood. Sometimes it comes out in the sky with full glory and sometimes it hides behind the clouds. The clouds are the fiefdom of the Sun. The Sun is doing so at his whim. It is bestowing energy so that the orchards could grow.

A Bird sat careless on the fence
One gossiped in the Lane
On silver matters charmed a Snake
Just winding round a stone

In this stanza, the poet has described various creatures which are integral part of nature and add beauty to the nature. A bird is sitting carelessly on the fence. Another bird is busy in the lane, gossiping about some trivial matter. A snake is winding around a stone and making a hissing sound.

Bright Flowers slit a Calyx
And soared upon a Stem
Like Hindered Flags – Sweet hoisted
With Spices – in the Hem

Bright flowers are coming out of the buds. Calyx is the name of the outermost green part of a flower. Calyx encloses other floral parts at the bud stage. When the flower blooms, it does so by opening the calyx. Flowers are soaring on the stem, the way a flag soars when attached to a flag-shaft.

‘Twas more - I cannot mention
How mean – to those that see
Vandyke’s Delineation
Of Nature’s – Summer Day

The poet thinks that she is unable to do justice to the beauty of nature while trying to explain it. The beauty of nature is beyond the scope of human comprehension. She has compared it to the paintings of Vandyke. He was a master painter of the seventeenth century and used Baroque style. Most of his paintings are portraits.

Baldwin, Emma. "The Trees like Tassels — hit — and swung by Emily Dickinson". Poem Analysis, https://poemanalysis.com/emily-dickinson/the-trees-like-tassels-hit-and-swung/. Accessed 7 August 2022.




Responding to the Poem

Question 1: What imagery does the poet use to delineate Summer’s day more picturesquely than any painter could?

Answer: A painter is limited by the size and two dimensions of the canvas. The two dimensions of a canvas often present limitations when it comes to portray three dimensions. For a poet, there is no limitation of dimensions. In other words, a poet gets boundless scope for describing the beauty of nature.

Question 2: What do you understand by ‘Psalteries of Summer’?

Answer: Psaltery is a string instrument, which was in vogue during medieval times. In this poem, ‘Psalteries of Summer’ has been used to describe the music of nature. The music is created by various players, like trees, creatures, wind, etc. who play like numerous musicians who make an orchestra.

Question 3: In which lines are creatures attributed with human qualities? How does this add to the beauty of the Summer’s day?

Answer: The lines which tell about a bird sitting carelessly on fence, another bird gossiping, and a snake whispering while winding around a rock. Mentioning only about the sun to describe a summer day would be monotonous. The poet has used many other elements to make the description more vivid and interesting.

Question 4: How would you explain the image of the ‘Hindered Flags’?

Answer: A flag is hindered by its attachment to the shaft. But remaining ends of the flag are free to sway and dance in air. We can compare the movement of a hoisted flag with movement many other things, like movement of petals of a flower, movement of flames of a fire, movement of variegated leaves when they sway in wind, etc.

Question 5: Why are the pronouns referring to the Sun capitalized?

Answer: Capitalization of the pronouns has used for personification, i.e. to depict the Sun as an individual, as an individual.

Question 6: Give examples from the poem to show that great poetry is a result of close observation of natural phenomena.

Answer: The poet appears to have great powers of observation. She can find fine details in whatever she observes. While describing the beauty of a sunny day, she takes care to include all the elements of the beauty. She does not limit herself to talking only about the sun rather she also talks about many other things. These elements enhance the beauty of the nature. She does not restrict to talking only about the sunlight but she also talks about the music and various motions. This shows that a great poetry is a result of close observation of natural phenomena.




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