Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Critical Comparison: Emily Dickinson's 'A Bird Came Down the Walk' and Percy Bysshe Shelley's 'To A Skylark' College

Emily Dickinson's 'A Bird came Down the Walk' and Percy Bysshe Shelley's 'To a Skylark' both utilise the bird as a symbol of nature, with Dickinson's poem being a violent and abrupt view of the natural world, and Shelley's poem being more lethargic and the bird representing some lofty plain which human experiences cannot compare to. Both poems comment on man's relationship with nature, but moreso than that, especially in regards to Romantic Poetry, nature can often be a metaphor for purity and for the sublime; for God. Fabienne Moine states in her essay that in Romantic poetry, the speaker identifying with the bird is in “itself a metaphor for artistic freedom, creativity or spiritual attainment”1, and 'To a Skylark' can in this light be interpreted as Shelley's (or the poem's speaker) desire to transcend from the earthly into something more idealised, and the melancholy that stems from the realisation that one might be unable to. Contrastingly, Dickinson's poem comments on the violence present in the natural world, how he “bit an Angleworm in halves”2 which contradicts the depiction of nature present in Romantic poetry, and then the poem further describes the intrusion which humans bring to the natural world.

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