All children are entomologists.

Like the grownup scientist whose curiosity is never satisfied, the tiny workings of insects’ bodies provide unlimited fascination. That is, until told to look elsewhere with their wish to see.

Emily Dickinson’s poem, “The butterfly obtains”, wants to know what’s causing such a disconnect between what happens and what’s expected. 

The butterfly obtains
But little sympathy
Though favorably mentioned
In Entomology –

Because he travels freely
And wears a proper coat
The circumspect are certain
That he is dissolute –

Had he the homely scutcheon
Of modest Industry
‘Twere fitter certifying
For Immortality –

Unlike grownups — except, of course, the childish ones —  children know they don’t get enough fellow-feeling, sympathy, from the world that makes the rules. Like “the butterfly (who) obtains / But little sympathy / Though favorably mentioned” when grownups talk among themselves, children would like to “travel freely”

A butterfly’s slender insect-body and broad, conspicuously marked brightly colored wings tell the story of a child’s wish to be seen, unencumbered and favored. With a “proper coat” for whichever species it represents, a butterfly skips, hops or flies from petal to leaf with jerky motions. Perfectly sensible behavior to a child.

Adults, with their fearsome habit of looking around and being cautious, regardless of the circumstances, “the circumspect are certain”, are forever talking about consequences. They are “certain / That he is dissolute — ”, lacks restraint, because the butterfly or the child are marked by favoring conspicuous colors and pastimes.

The “homely scutcheon”, the protective shield, of the adult world seems to a child a boring, inevitable fate. Parents’ and teachers’ “modest Industry” of workplace routine, housework, responsibilities.

These all supposedly “ ‘Twere fitter certifying”, a guarantee, “For Immortality”.

Always restrained, modest; in colorless clothes or prudent coats and habits for the sake of another, incomprehensible, identity sounds like a jip, a bog, a juke to me. 

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

 

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