A Bird Came Down the Walk
By Emily Dickinson


A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad,--
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, splashless, as they swim

Way 1: First Impressions
As I started to read this poem I thought hmm this poem is about a bird doing what birds do. My first impression after finishing this poem is that Lines 1 through 10 seem pretty normal to me I can feel the rhythm as I read and hear the rhyming but then everything seems to change at line 10. The last half of the poem is very different. I'm really not sure what the author is trying to tell me. Is the bird flying away in fear? Is the bird afraid of the person offering him the crumb? Dickenson starts by explaining the simple beauty of a wild animal eating and then the tone of the poem changes, she seems to be comparing the birds wings and flight to that of oars moving through the ocean. I take this to mean that the bird is flying away gracefully.


Way 2: Engaging with the Text
A bird came down the walk: (way 4)
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
and ate the fellow, raw (Way 3).

And then he drank dew
from a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass (Way 3).

He glanced with rapid eyes (Way 3)
That hurried all abroad,--
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head (Way 3)

Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home (Way 3).

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, splashless, as they swim (Way 3).

This reading is not done by Emily Dickinson herself because as I have learned through reviewing historical data. She was a very private perons and her poems weren't shared with the world until after her death. Audio http://www.reelyredd.com/1104.birdcamedown.htm
I couldn't find a reading of this poem that was done by the author but the one I did find was very helpful. I read the poem out loud and then listened to the audio I have and as I listened to the poem I imagined a small bird hopping along a path, feeling safe, not seeing me, going about his business eating worm. I thought about how the author must be trying to show the kindness of creatures as the bird hops out of the way of the beetle. Then the fear the bird felt when he noticed that he was being watched by a human. From there I start to have a bit more trouble understanding the meaning of the next few stanza. I think that the bird flies off and Dickenson is comparing the flight of the bird to the ocean but I'm not sure it that is quite right.
The reading that I have attached was not done by the author and was done in I assume a studio. By the way it was read I could hear the rhythm and rhyme of the poem. I think the form of this poem is narrative to me it is telling a story about the bird.

Way 3: A Point about Form and Its Relationship to Content
I used the poem I typed in way 2 to perform the hyperlinks.

Way 3: Another Point about Form and Its Relationship to Content
Emily Dickenson uses formal verse when writing A Bird came down the walk. She used an abcb meter and after listening to the audio I feel that there is rhythm and rhyme. Each stanza has 4 lines, with end rhymes on two of the lines.

Way 4: Unpacking the text
See first line of poem for link to way 4.

Way 5: Analyzing the Setting

In this poem by Emily Dickenson the setting begins in the first stanza with the bird in a park acting in its natural way, it doesn't notice the person watching. The bird eats a worm and continues on its way. In stanza 2 the bird continues casually down the walk not seeming to worry about a thing, even giving room to let a beetle pass. The setting of the first to stanzas is one of serenity, showng nature in a quiet way. In stanza 3 the mood and feel of the poem starts to change, the bird is irritated, something or someone is bothering it. The bird glances with rapid eyes and we get the feeling that he is very aware of a preditor or something very near. Now the setting is one of worry and concern. What is happening? The bird is poised to fly, to get away from danger. In stanza 4 we are introduced to a person trying to hand the bird a crumb, this is what has the bird irritated, then is stanza 4 the mood and settting change once again as the bird takes flight and the narrator describes it with such beauty and grace. Stanza 5 is all about the beauty of a bird in flight, comparing wings to oars and butterflies to beauty floating or flying through the sky.
I used to think that the purpose of the setting was because, well, it just seemed to make sense but now I can see the artistic as well as personal choice in using the park, the bird, the worm and the beetle. Dickinson loved the park and I feel she felt comfortable there and using this setting helped her to describe her feeling of possibly being an intruder into someone elses life, offering crumbs could be the same as offering of herself or her advice to someone. I feel that the park as the setting along with the bird, the worm and the beetle help her to tell this story.

Way 6: Identifying and Analyzing Point of View

This poem is written in 1st person pov because the poem goes from describing the bird and what it is doing to the narrator trying to give the bird a crumb back to a description of the bird taking off in the beauty of flight. In this poem we have a limited amount of information about the bird and the narrator. Beacuse this poem is written in 1st person and it makes me think that the authors may frequently be in the park alone, watching the birds. She may even hide on them and wait for them to notice her but when they do and become worried or irritated by her presence then she feels the need to make them more confortable but that doesn't work for her. I feel that she also looks at their flight as something magical an escape that she wishes she had. I feel that this point of view limits the information we can know about this poem. I feel that Dickinson used 1st person point of view for this poem because she is writing about her self. I feel like she is writing about something deeper than just a bird walking down a sidewalk were she stands out of sight. Although this point of view leaves a lot for us to come up with on our own it also makes the poem work.
Reflecting back now I feel that the point of view is important because she was speaking in the first person, she was talking about herself and the use of 1st person POV helps to her to tell her story but it does make it more difficult for me as the reader because it leaves a lot of the story up to the reader to figure out.

Way 7: Analyzing Complexity, Ambiguity, & Difficulty

I feel that this poem has moments of ambiguity as well as the entire poem showing ambiguity. The poem it's self is ambiguous because although it is about a bird and a person it also is, in my opinion, about how nature and people. The source of this ambiguity is really in stanzas 3 and 4 where the narrator tells the story of the bird finally noticing the person then being scared and fleeing.
There are certain words that show ambiguity too. For example in line 14, "I offer him a crumb" This could mean that she was offering him a chance, not trying so scare the bird away or take over his habitat but to live with him. This points to the over all ambiguity of the poem as I wrote about before. Stanza 5 also has ambiguities, not just one word but the stanza, freedom comes to mind. The text makes me think of an animal wanting to be free, not imprisoned by man. It also makes me think of just being able to get away, softly and smoothly. This stanza also helps to show the ambiguity of overall scheme of the poem.

Way 8: Considering Canonicity
The poem “A Bird Came Down The Walk” by Emily Dickenson has some canonicity. A Practical Introduction to Literary Study by Brown and Yarbrough says that “canonicity of a work depends, then, on the perception of readers that it is culturally or aesthetically important” (3). Our text also states that aesthetic value is important. I feel that the poem, “A Bird Came Down The Walk” has aesthetic value because of its artistic beauty. Said another way, this poem is a master of language and use of words which makes it aesthetically valuable. It also has longevity which means that this poem has stood the test of time and also Dickinson had influenced many writes that came after her. All of these things speak to the canonicity of this piece. This poem and author will continue to be studied because the meaning of this poem can be different to different sets of people. My understandin of Canonicity has grown since completing way 8 and I now see that this poem is also important because of its author. Emily Dickinson being a women in the 1850s has a special place in the world of literature. By reading her biography and subsequently about the era that she wrote in I have begun to understand the importance of a women breaking into what at that time was still very much a mans world.

Way 9: Biographical Context
After reading a biography of Emily Dickinson written by Michael Myers, I feel that this poem represents Emily's quietness and seclusion. Myers writes that Dickinson has "filled with robins, bees, winter light, household items, and domestic duties." In a Bird Comes Down the Walk I believe her careful description of how the bird moves while unaware of her presence and then becomes agitated at seeing her may be a reflection of how she herself felt when required to come in contact with the outside world. Myers paints a picture for us of a women, secluded from society by choice and I feel that this poem reflects that seclution along with her love for nature and beauty especially in her description of the bird taking flight.
Myers, Michael. “Biography of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).” Thinking and Writhing About Literature”. Web. 10 May 2010. http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/emilybio.htm.

Note: There should be a hanging indent on this work cited.
Way 10 Developing Historical and Cultural Context

Emily's life was one of seclusion from the world by her own choice (Bio True Story). She spent much of her time in her room writing poems which was her passion (Bio True Story). Her love of writing seemed to be her only outlet otherwise she led a very quiet life she liked to walk in the garden and spend time with her immediate family (Bio True Story). Emily's was coming of age in the 1850's and at that time began to write poetry. This was a very private thing for her and she didn’t share her work (Wineaple). Emily’s poetry was almost completely unpublished until after her death in 1886. At that time it was her family who felt that the world must see what she had spent her life working on (Amherst College). Emily grew up and lived her life in Amherst Massachusetts. This small town was home to many influential and privileged people along with the Dickinsons’. Education was very important to the Dickinson family and Emily was very well educated. During her time in Amherst she saw many changes come about and all of these changes became the backdrop of her poems whether it be the town, the landscape the people or events they were all inspirations for her poems (Amherst College).

Work Cited (This should be centered)

Amhest College. Emily Dickenson Mueseum. 2009. 29 Apr 2010 http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/town_and_times
[Emily Dickinson Biography]. Bio True Story. Biography.com. Biography A&E. 29 April 2010. Web. http://www.biography.com/articles/Emily-Dickinson-9274190
Wineapple, Brenda. Her Own Society. The American Scholar. 77:3. Pg 81-87. Wilsons Web. 29 Apr. 2010. Web. http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.ezproxy.uwc.edu/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.33


Note: There should be a hanging indent on this work cited


Way 11: Considering Theoretical Context
Psychoanalytical Perspective:
In Emily Dickinson’s poem “A Bird Came Down the Walk” if using a psychoanalytical perspective one might ask questions like…. What does this piece suggest about the psychological state of the author? Why is she hiding from the bird? Why does she try to feed the bird? Why does she portray he bird as both savage (He bit an angle-worm in halves) and kind (Hopped sidewise to let a beetle pass). Are there words in this piece that could have different or hidden meanings? Is there a hidden meaning to the passage / Than oars divide the ocean/? Is there a subconscious reason for using such words? How symbolic is the imagery in the work (Bedford St. Martin)?

Way 12: Considering another Theoretical Context
Reader Response Criticism:

To analyze Emily Dickinsons’ poem “A Bird Came Down The Walk” using reader response criticism one would start by asking questions like…. How does interaction of the text and the reader create meaning? Do the sounds of the words as they appear on the page or how they are spoken by the reader enhance or change the meaning of the word or piece? The goal of asking these questions is that the readers reactions to the literature are vital to interpreting the meaning of the text. One using a reader response theory will actually look at literature through a lens like feminist, psychoanalytical or Marxist but the common bond is that what a text is cannot be separated from what it does (Bedford St Martins).

Way 13: Overall Review
After applying the last 12 Ways to Emily Dickinson’s “A Bird Came Down The Walk”, I have learned a lot about the literature, this poem and how to look at literary text. Initially, when I read this poem for the first time and then completed, I felt that it was just a poem about a bird walking and then the narrator scaring it. In way 2 I was able to listen to someone else reading the poem, in my case it wasn’t the author but still another person and this helped me to hear the rhythm and rhyme but I have to say I still thought it was just a poem about a bird and a person. As we started Way 3 I began to understand form and content. I see now that the form helps the reader to understand the cautiousness of the bird and the irritation the bird is feeling as the human is spotted and tries to offer some crumbs. As the bird becomes more irritated the rhyme becomes more off beat and then in the end the rhyme recovers as the bird flies off gracefully. As I moved to Way 4 I really started to understand how to read poems in a different way. Unpacking texted helped me to understand the importance of looking for metaphors, similes, and the images within the poem or story. In my poem there were instances of metaphors, images and a simile. Analyzing the setting in Way 5 also helped me to gain a better understanding of this poem. The setting is a park, a calm peaceful place for nature to thrive and live in peace the narrator disrupts this peace and calm and I can tell that by the birds eyes darting like a beetle which is a simile. Looking back at Way 6, point of view, I now understand that she was telling the story from first person POV because this poem could be a metaphor for how she feels in the life she is living. As I moved through Way 7 and 8 these ways were probably the most difficult for me to understand. At first this poem doesn’t seem so complex but as you start to look at the ambiguity and canon you see that there is more to the story than just nature. This story is telling a tale about life interrupted. What I am trying to say is that to me the poem could be about how humans disrupt nature in the smallest ways but it can also be about Dickinsons life, her feelings about the way she was living and her interactions with her family and the community around her. As I did the work for Ways 9 and 10 and began to learn about her through her biographies and the history of the community she lived in and the world around her I began to look at this poem in a very different way than how I started. This is reflected in the changes I’ve made or should I say the detail I have added to some of the ways based on historical context and her biography. Way 12 helped me to look at this poem in many different ways and ask questions from different lenses about word usage or choices, how her personal life affects her writing and the overall tempo of the poem.
Through the lessons in this process I have gained great insight on how to approach literature in a more meaningful way. I have really changed the way I look at poetry and short stories through this project and now know how to look at a piece with both horizontal and vertical thinking. This will help me to not just see what’s on the surface but to really look at what the true meaning of a poem might be.


I have had some trouble with the formatting in this project. The text size seems to come in at different sizes and I am not able to change it. The work cited is supposed to be a hanging indent but I couldn't figure out how to change the formatting once it was in this program.
Work Cited
Amherst College. Emily Dickenson Mueseum. 2009. 29 Apr 2010 http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/town_and_times

Brown, James S., and Scott D. Yarbrough. A Practical Introduction to Literary Study. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2005.

[Emily Dickinson Biography]. Bio True Story. Biography.com. Biography A&E. 29 April 2010. Web. http://www.biography.com/articles/Emily-Dickinson-9274190

Myers, Michael. “Biography of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886).” Thinking and Writhing About Literature”. Web. 10 May 2010. http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/emilybio.htm/.


Roethke, Theodore. "My Papa's Waltz."
virtualLit Fiction. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2010. http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/poetry/waltz_critical.html.

Rolfe, Tracey. A Bird Came Down The Walk. Perf. Reel’s Poetry Pages, 2010. Web. http://www.reelyredd.com/1104.birdcamedown.htm


Wineapple, Brenda. Her Own Society. The American Scholar. 77:3. Pg 81-87. Wilsons Web. 29 Apr. 2010. Web. http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.ezproxy.uwc.edu/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.33