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A narrow Fellow in the grass
You may have met Him—did you not?
His notice sudden is—
The Grass divides as with a Comb— 5
A spotted shaft is seen—
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on—
He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn— 10
Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—
I more than once at Noon
Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it 15
It wrinkled, and was gone—
Several of Nature’s People
I know, and they know me—
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality— 20
But never met this Fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And Zero at the Bone—
Source: Poetry for Students, ©2013 Gale Cengage. All Rights Reserved. Full copyright.
A very common Emily Dickinson poetic technique. Rather than use the word snake, which may have negative connotations for the reader, Dickinson constructs a completely non-threatening image. As readers, we might react with horror to snake but we are probably comfortable with a narrow Fellow.
One of the hallmarks of ED's poetic technique is to use draw an unusual comparison. In this case, ED doesn't say the snake crawls through the grass; her image is much more concrete and visual--the snake moves through grass like a comb through hair--an unusual, but perfect simile.
This stanza illustrates the closeness ED feels for nature in general, an important theme in her poetry that brings her into the circle of the Transcendentalists, who believe that Nature is, if not equal to God, almost as important as God.
Despite the fact that ED welcomes nature into her life, here she exhibits an instinctively negative reaction to the snake--her blood runs cold. ED, as a product of her religious training (a version of Puritanism, which she rejected), could not help but see the snake partly as a symbol of evil.
Dickinson's many personae here include a man recalling boyhood.
Another example of Dickinson's technique as mentioned in the note above ["The Grass divides"]: rather than using the usual descriptors for a snake's motion, Dickinson again creates a concrete image: she shows a a harmless "whiplash" which, instead of slithering or writhing, merely "wrinkles."