"Nature" is what we see-

Today, I thought to post about one of my most favorite poems by Emily Dickinson. The theme of the poem is simple yet powerful and is a blend of abstract ideas with surrounding.

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
                      
                        -By Emily Dickinson
 
Theme

“Nature” is what we see- is a poem by Emily Dickinson, it has no title like many of Dickinson’s other poems. In this poem, she is portraying immaterial ideas with material substances. Initially, she seems to suggest that “Nature” is what we see, then puts a big hyphen which could be suggestive for imagery coming up next or is just a question posed to the readers. Then she goes on to put images of “The Hill” and “the Afternoon” with pause suggested by hyphens. After drawing images of a vast mountain on a sunny day, she draws contrasting images in the next line of poem: Squirrel-Eclipse-the Bumble bee- with pause suggested by hyphens. If “The Hill” and “the Afternoon” suggested a vast view of nature on a sunny day then squirrel, eclipse and bumble bee depict the small, fragile side of nature on a day when the all graceful sunshine gets abandoned by eclipse. In next line, she negates with “Nay” and with a pause suggests “Nature is Heaven”. The Bright, The Dark and The Heaven is the sequence followed, so is heaven made up of both good and bad instead of only good or only bad? This could mean that the good have no meaning without the bad and vice versa so, each gives a meaning to another and together form heaven. Her suggestions regarding this appear more prominent from next line when she uses another sense to analyse nature. Again, like a question she suggests an argument using the auditory sense: Nature is what we hear, this time she has not put double quotes around the word Nature which could signify the abstractness or invisibility of sound compared to objects perceived by visual sense. Then she draws auditory contrasts by putting sounds from tiny to vast bodies together with pause: The Bobolink-the Sea. Voice of a small bird, Bobolink is put by the side of sound from the vast body of Sea, Sea gives an illusion to infiniteness that reaches to sky and in the next line, she puts the sound of Thunder and a minute insect, Cricket side by side. She goes on to negate what she posed as a question, that is, Nature is what we hear- Nay- Nature is harmony. She suggests, the big and the small, the dark and the bright, together form a heavenly harmony called Nature. Her next question put as suggestion: Nature is what we know- points that we know nature through experiences that we acquire from our senses. Then she argues that still we cannot say what nature is because our wisdom or knowledge is limited and impotent compared to the simplicity of Nature. Here she points at the vagueness of our wisdom that fails to understand the Nature even in its simplicity.

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3 comments

  1. I always struggled with Dickinson. She writes beautifully but I never quite “got” some of what she said. You broke this down beautifully.

    It almost seems that nature is a duality or maybe the mind makes it so. Our senses interpret things and the job of our minds(the thing it does best) is to separate things(us and nature). And at the same time see things as either black or white–no in between.

    In your other post you talk about looking at nature and maybe living like the things you see(if I interpreted it right). I think she is right in that our wisdom and knowledge is limited compared to the simplicity of nature. We have too many filters, but I do think much can be learned from quieting our minds and just watching nature.
    Maybe never fully connecting with it but learning from it.

    This post just gave me two ideas for a blog! Thank you..am glad to connect with you in here as well as twitter. And no 140 character limit! Lol

    1. Dickinson is a mystery poet, tough to interpret and to be honest I don’t know whether I have correctly interpreted her poem or not.
      It is great that you got ideas for your blog posts from this post. 🙂

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