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A Bird Came Down The Walk. Essay, Research Paper

Emily Dickinson’s poem “A Bird Came Down the Walk.” is an excellent example of how poets use varying styles of rhyme and meter to bring a poem to life. Dickinson expertly uses meter to show how the bird acts on the ground and in the air. The rhyme scheme she uses changes in the poem to show the birds change in attitude.

The poem is five quatrains long. In each stanza, except for the fourth, uses iambic trimeter in every line but the fourth line which uses iambic tetrameter. The fourth stanza uses iambic trimeter in all four lines. Iambic tells the reader that the second syllable on each foot is stressed. Trimeter means that the line contains three stressed syllables and tetrameter means there are four stresses. Meter plays a very important role in poems because it gives the poet another tool to help convey the feeling of the poem.

Dickinson used this metrical pattern to convey to the reader that the bird did not feel natural on the ground. The meter forces the poem to be read very jumpy and quick, much like how a bird acts while on the ground. Even though the bird is on the ground for a short amount time it still acts cautiously because its natural habitat is in the sky.

And the he drank a Dew

From a convenient Grass?

And then hopped sidewise to the Wall

To let a Beetle pass?

When the bird finally flies away the poem’s flow mimics that of a flying bird, very calm and free “And he unrolled his feathers / And rowed him softer home?”. She describes a birds flight like rowing in an ocean, but without all the splashing of the oars.

In the first two stanza of the poem she rhymes the second and fourth lines of the quatrain.

A Bird came down the Walk?

He did not know I saw?

He bit an Angleworm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw,

She uses this rhyme scheme to show that the bird is not frightened yet and has not noticed her presence. Then she switches to half-rhymes to covey that the bird is beginning to be scared because he notices her watching. “That hurried all around? / They looked like frightened beads, I thought? / he stirred his Velvet Head”. She rhymes around and head to describe the shape of the bird’s head. When she rhymes seam and swim she is comparing the birds flight path to a seam, straight and precise. The change in the rhyme scheme was done on purpose to help portray the birds reactions.

When used correctly meter and rhyme can help the poet convey emotion without having to say a word. Dickinson masterfully uses meter and rhyme to breathe life into her poem. Without her skillful use of those poetic tools the poem would be lifeless and dull.


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