Birds

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"Cherries suit robins;    
The eagle's golden breakfast    
Strangles them.    
God keeps his oath to sparrows" (Dickinson).

Dickinson's use of birds is prominent in these two lines.  Why did she choose to use three different kinds of birds instead of three different animals?  My first thought was that birds can fly high (obviously) to reach God's table because "His table's spread too high for us."  However, it doesn't seem like an interpretation with any depth.  I thought of the stories, "The Birds" and "The Raven" and remembered how gross and mean those birds were.  If the birds in this poem are gross and mean, why would they be able to fly up to God's table?  


6 Comments

Stephanie Wytovich said:

You make a very good point. Honestly, I never really paid much attention to the reference of birds in the poem so I'm glad you brought that to light. Your close reading does make one wonder though.

Angelica Guzzo said:

I also noticed there were refrences to birds. Good point about them not being to fly to god's table.

Greta Carroll said:

Kaitlin, that is interesting, I did not notice that either. I like how you made the connection between birds being able to fly up to the table to eat too. You really made me wonder about the significance of the choice of those types of birds, and the choice of birds in general.

Angela Palumbo said:

I noticed the use of birds but did not think anything else about it. You're right, why not elephants and tigers? Possibly she chose birds because although they can reach high heights, they are still far from God and heaven. We are built in God's image but so different from him. Maybe she uses this to point out how close but far away we are from God.

Your analysis of the birds is quite interesting. I took the eagle to be a form of God himself and us humans to be the sparrows. But the question is, why did she choose to use birds? I think that you are right in saying that birds can reach heights that we cannot. And now that I think about it, is it possible that eagles can fly higher than sparrows? Probably. But eagles are also a bird of prey, that could eat little sparrows. The connection to the birds in this poem is a disturbing one, and it brings back to me images of those two stories that you mentioned in your entry. Great entry, Kaitlin!

Erica Gearhart said:

Kaitlin, I also wondered why she chose birds here. I have read a lot of Emily Dickinson's poetry and the use of birds is a recurring theme throughout the ones I have read. The only reason I can think of is that Dickinson was practically a hermit for most of her life. Birds were probably one of the only types of animals she would see on a daily basis, so it seems likely that she would relate familiar animals to people rather than unfamiliar ones. I also agree that she used them because they can fly near to God's "table."

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    Erica Gearhart on Birds: Kaitlin, I also wondered why s
    Lauren Miller on Birds: Your analysis of the birds is
    Angela Palumbo on Birds: I noticed the use of birds but
    Greta Carroll on Birds: Kaitlin, that is interesting,
    Angelica Guzzo on Birds: I also noticed there were refr
    Stephanie Wytovich on Birds: You make a very good point. H
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