The proud pace and confident rhythm of “I started Early — Took my Dog — ”, by Emily Dickinson, implies resolution of an internal struggle to accept the forces of change acting on individual ego.

I started Early – Took my Dog –
And visited the Sea –
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me –

And Frigates – in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands —
Presuming Me to be a Mouse –
Aground – opon the Sands –

But no Man moved Me – till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe –
And past my Apron – and my Belt
And past my Bodice – too –

And made as He would eat me up —
As wholly as a Dew
Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve —
And then – I started – too –

And He – He followed – close behind –
I felt his Silver Heel
Opon my Ankle — Then My Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl —

Until We met the Solid Town –
No One He seemed to know –
And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –

The first verse imagines waking to conditions when, perhaps by choice, everything in life I had always counted on has passed away. I feel like a stranger in almost every way, except for my dog as symbol of my former self.

The second verse reiterates my “newby” status. Everyone who encounters me, “Presuming Me to be a Mouse — ”, assumes I can easily be dismissed. I may add to this perception by feeling suddenly “Aground — opon the Sands — ”.

Disoriented by new conditions in life, such as a new job, abandonment by a spouse, loss of job or other income, a geographic move; or, perhaps changes in how to think that I elect on my, or others’, behalf, all make me feel unprotected. Waiting to be swept away.

 Time passes. “But no Man moved Me — … ”.  It seems for a while that the “Tide” of trouble that “.. made as he would eat me up — / As wholly as a Dew ” will annihilate me. I cannot fight, directly, without inviting a continuation of the struggle.

But, as it turns out, “And then — I started — too — ”. Ceasing to demand that conditions, possessions, relationships, remain the same when it is time for them to wither away puts turmoil behind me. “And bowing — with a Mighty look — / At me — The Sea Withdrew —”.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

Advertisements