Emily Dickinson – One Day
The Simplicity of Emily Dickinson’s Poem Day comes to life in images of ordinary things of life. Through the eyes of an inquisitive child, Emily takes the reader on a mind-bending journey from the wonder of the sunrise to the mystery of the sunset.
She begins the poem with a declaration: I’ll tell you how the sun rose. Her knowledge and confidence in this grandeur deserves to be shared. Her explanation is defined in the metaphorical image that the sun rises lane by lane. The colored strata across the sky are depicted as bands. A sense of vanity is connoted, which the morning sky is entitled to, because – frankly – everything in creation deserves some merit or value.
The morning sky is amethyst because her next thought tells us so the steeples swam in amethyst. The word “bell tower” is a spiritual word. It implies physical height and spiritual depth. The idea of the tall building “floating” against the amethyst background is captured in the concept of movement. The early morning air is alive and moving, giving the impression that the steeples are swaying in the wind.
After describing the natural colors of the sunrise and the morning wind, the poet suggests to the reader how quickly nature responds to these signs. She says this the news in the rising sun like squirrels they ran. In fact, nature wakes up as fast as a squirrel runs. (The speed of a squirrel is much debated, but many people will say that they run at an average of approximately 10 miles per hour.) The message that this beautiful image conveys is that once the sun rises, everything happens quickly. It practically symbolizes the frenetic rhythm of the day that we have to contend with from the moment we wake up.
The rhythm in the first stanza is fast and light. The tone is cheerful and full of promise. It continues in the second stanza where the hills untie personified their bonnets. As the sun rises and the morning air begins to warm, the fog that is the metaphorical lid over the hills evaporates. Then the bobolinks they start singing. The bobolink is a small American songbird. Something that is really special about dawn is the dawn chorus. What else can birds do but sing when they wake up? And whatever the habitat, its birds sing.
At the end of the second stanza, Emily blames the sun for everything that has happened. She says the sun is the reason the ribbons are in the air, the bell towers float, the squirrels run, the hills untie their hats and the birds sing. The sun miraculously enlivens the morning. It is a message that symbolizes birth; the beginning.
Then the rhythm begins to change in her statement: But how he did it, I don’t know. The mood is darkened in the mystery of the sunset. There was a purple stile that little yellow boys and girls climbed all the time, until when they got to the other side, a domino in gray gently put up the evening bars and led the flock away.
As the sun sinks toward the horizon, sunlight enters the atmosphere at a lower angle, and depending on the concentration of atmospheric particles in the path of incoming sunlight, clouds appear yellow, pink, and purple. Yellow clouds are fluffy cumulus clouds. These playful clouds remind the poet of children climbing a pole. The magenta style is a band of stratus cloud that lingers almost parallel to the horizon.
So, at the end of the day, the kids are taken away by dominos. Literally, a domini can be a clergyman or teacher who, like a shepherd, leads the flock home to safety. Figuratively, it is the night – the darkness – that ends the day (or life). The color gray symbolizes mourning: the end of a beautiful day; death. It also reminds the reader of the fact that the poet does not know how the sun sets. Color heightens the mystery. Figuratively speaking, people do not know what happens after death. Evening bars represent a sense of security. This gives hope to the reader.
The mention that the sun is masculine, like dominion, exalts the Creator and gives the stanza a spiritual tone. It is as if the poet wants the reader to ponder the spiritual meaning of the sunset. If the dawn is the beginning – birth – surely then the sunset is the end – death.
The poem is in a very unconventional broken rhyming meter. Her use of metaphors is vivid and spiritual. Emily Dickinson’s insight into nature and life was original and profound. Her works are descriptive and show the power of her imagination. This is indeed a very beautiful poem which, like many of her other poems, deals with the themes of life, death and immortality.
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