A Bird Came Down The Walk || Summary and Analysis

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A Bird came down the Walk

A Bird came down the Walk-
He did not know I saw-
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And are the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew,
From a convenient Grass-
And then he hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass-
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around-
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought-
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home-
Then Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam-
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashes as they swim.

A Bird came down the Walk- He did not know I saw- He bit an Angleworm in halves And are the fellow, raw,
A Bird came down the Walk

Summary:

      'A Bird came down the Walk' is a very popular poem by Emily Dickinson. It is focused on a small creature, a bird. She describes the bird as it comes in the garden but the choice of words makes the poem a memorable experience. The poem focuses on the separation between the worlds ot man and nature., and it also develops the theme of nature's indifference by including other questions of fear and struggle.

      Stanza I shows the arrival of a bird on its routine walk on land. The bird was unaware of the presence of the speaker who was closely observing it. The bird cut the angleworm in halves and started eating it raw. It is totaly identified with nature and is extremely hostile to the worm which it eats.

      Stanza II shows that the bird quenched its thirst by drinking the dew which was easily available on the blades of grass. The bird suddenly jumped aside to the wall to let the beetle cross without offering any obstruction or resistance. It is politely indifferent to the beetle. This murderous act humanizes the little creature and places it in a diminutive animal world. The speaker is relishing her secret spying and this produces tragic tensions in this situation. His sudden courteous behaviour toward the beetle in stanza two hides the struggle among nature's creatures for survival that is witnessed in the stanza first.

      Stanza III shows that the bird looked around very rapidly in panic. The birds eyes looked like 'frightened beads' rolling wildly in the grass. The poet observed it moving its velvet head which brought him closer to it. The natural habitat is being attacked, and the speaker praises the beauty of the bird under stress, a stress which is implied by the metaphors of its eyes like beads and its head like velvet. The birds sense of fear and danger is intensified with intervention of the speaker. Sensing fear, the bird finally flies away. The speaker's attempted reconciliation with nature fails in the end.

      Stanza IV shows that the speaker is inoved by the plight of the bird. He offers it crumbs to appease its fear of being cornered. Now the speaker finds himself in danger as the bird is about to flee.

      Stanza V shows the wing motion of the bird which may be compared to that of oars rowing through the seamless ether, to take it home. The speaker's final bid to identify with the bird fails in the end. The bird departs into the ocean of air where all of, creation is seamless. The speaker estranges from others things. rowing on the ocean and seeing the butterflies as swimming.

      The closing lines show the butterflies jumping majestically of sun's hot sands into the liquid coolness of the sky. They portray a world of aesthetic perfection.

Interpretation and Critically Analysis:

      'A Bird came down the Walk' deals with man's alienation from nature. The world of nature and the world of man cannot be friendly with each other for ever. The winged creatures prefer to live in their own world because they feel safe and secure in it, Nature cannot trust man who can harm it for his selfish purposes. The speaker's spying and his motivated offer of a crumb is finally rejected by the bird which finds meaning in it. The bird doubts his intention and overlooks this charitable act. Sensing threat to its life, the bird flies away:

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home.

Use of Suggestive Images:

      'A Bird came down the Walk' deals with man's alienation from nature. The world of nature and the world of man cannot be friendly with each other for ever. The winged creatures prefer to live in their own world because they feel safe and secure in it. Nature cannot trust man who can harm it for his selfish purposes. The speaker's spying and his motivated offer of a crumb is finally rejected by the bird which finds meaning in it. The bird doubts his intention and overlooks this charitable act. Sensing threat to its life, the bird flies away:

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home.

 

      The first two stanzas are full of precise picturesque detail. With their evocative images of seamless beauty as well as with the many lower-register vowel sounds ('Rowed, 'Softer', 'Oars', 'Ocean' 'Butterflies', 'Noon') the last lines portray the human presence as an intruder in nature's perfect peace. Humans may imagine such a realm, but they cannot enter it. The final lines of the poem fully present the separation between man and nature by describing the bird's serene flight:

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam
Or Butterflies, off banks of Noon,
Leap, plashes as they swim.

Art:

      The poem's quick trimeter line, varied by one tetrameter line in each stanza, is a suitable match for the sudden and irregular movements of a bird that is hopping along the ground. Written in primarily iambic rhythm, the poem communicates its easy tone partly through its subtle metrical variation, chiefly reversal of accent, and through cacophonious, in imitation of the bird's smooth merging with nature. The slight changes in meter, the use of run-on lines, and the approximate rhymes in stanzas three and four break the exact pattern of the opening and intensify the mood of fear and danger. The capitalization of 'Crumb' and its end-rhyme position further accentuate the lack of understanding between man and nature. The conceit ot the sky-sea and bird - boat develop the feeling of eternal serenity.

Tone:

      The surface tone is humorous and wryly ironic, for the observer laughs at th bird's fear pf a beetle and a distrust of the crumb she offers. But the final tone is one of awe and aesthetic response to the bird's beautiful flight. Even the description of the bird eating the wom occasions uneasy humour.

Theme:

      Man's spying and his useless offer of a crumb lead to the bird's final rejection and illuminate another theme nature's superior self-sufficiency over man's fumbling awkwardness.

Explanation with Reference to Context:

A bird came down the Walk-
He did not know I saw-
He bit an Angleworm in haves
And ate the fellow, raw.

      The speaker visualizes the interaction between worlds of nature and man. The bird came from the world of nature and was spotted strolling in the garden. It was unaware of any human presence which could encroach upon its privacy. The bird sensed no danger in this man-made world on its arrival. It had no idea that it was eng secretly observed. The observer found it eating a piece of raw flesh of an Angleworm which it had split into halves. This violent act of the bird shows the struggle for survival in this world. This further shows the hostility of the bird towards the worm which it eats ferociously.

And then he drank a Dew,
From a convenient Grass-
And the hopped sideways to the Wall
To let the beetle pass-

      The bird remains the central focus in this section of the poem. It continues to feel a part of the new set-up. The bird after eating the raw flesh of the worm drank water from the nearby dew-laden grass. It hastily moved towards the wall of the garden to allow the beetle to pass without any interference. The bird's unexpected courteous behaviour towards the beetle (insect) hides the struggle for existence in this world.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around-
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought-
He stirred it velvet Head.

      The speaker was all absorbed in secretly watching the bird. He felt that his presence had gone unnoticed by the mysterious bird. He also witnessed the fierce struggle going on among the petty creatures in the heart of nature. He was quite optimistic about his final identity with the bird.

      Suddenly, the bird sensed some lurking fear in its neighbourhood. It promptly surveyed the scene in a state of anxiety and apprehension. The bird's eyes looked like frightened beads rolling wildly in the grass. The bird moved its velvet head and looked quite tensed. It was all set to leave this place to avoid any eventuality. Sensing fear, the bird finally flew away. Thus, the speaker's bid to identify with the bird failed in the end.

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home.

      The bird has finally realized that it cannot stay anymore in this fear-ridden atmosphere. It senses some hidden fear and threat to its life in this terrifying situation It is now mentally prepared to give up this habitat which is governed human being It looks panic-stricken and has finally decided to leave this dangerous place to save its life.

      The bird is no more interested in prolonging its stay in this tense situation. It becomes extremely careful about the safety of its life. The bird refuses to accept the crumbs being offered to it by the speaker as a gesture of friendship. The bird opens its feathers and instantly flies away to its natural habitat in search of personal safety. Thus, the expected unity of the worlds of nature and man suffers another shock.

Than oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam-
Or Butterflies, off Banks of noon
Leap, plashes as they swim.

      The closing stanza of the poem shows the departure of the bird for its secure habitat in the world of nature. It feels insecure in the man-made world and is left with no other option but to instantly leave it for its survival. Sensing fear, the bird finally flies away.

      The last phase of the poem captures the flight of the bird who is heading towards its native home. It shows the wing motion of the bird which looks like roars rowing through the seamless ether, to take it home. The bird finally departs into the ocean of air where all of creation is seamless. The speaker sees the butterflies jumping majestically of sun's hot sands into the liquid coolness of the sky. The speaker estranges from other things, rowing on the ocean and observing the butterflies as swimming.

Annotations:

      'Come down the Walk' - refers to the arrival of the bird for its walk.
'I' -stands for the speaker / observer.
'Bit an Angleworm' - the bird was tearing into pieces the Angleworm-a type of wom.
'Convenient grass' - easily accessible blades of grass. 'Hopped sideways to the wall' - The bird jumped towards the wall of the garden.
'Glanced with rapid eyes' - the bird moved its eyes very quickly which looked like frightened beads.
'Stirred his velvet head' - the bird moved its soft velvet-like head.
'Crumbs' - pieces of food.
'Unrolled' - unfolded.
'Rowed his softer home' - the bird, sensing fear, left for its delicate and secure natural habitat.
'Banks of noon' - sun's hot sands.
'Plashless' - without making any noise.

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