illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

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What imagery is used in the last stanza of Emily Dickinson's "In the Garden"?

Quick answer:

The last stanza of Emily Dickinson’s poem "In the Garden" uses visual, tactile, and auditory imagery to compare flight in the sky to passage through the water. The bird is also compared to a butterfly.

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In her poem known as “In the Garden” or “A Bird came down the Walk—,” Emily Dickinson presents a speaker who is watching a bird in their garden. During most of the poem, the speaker’s comments about the bird describe its appearance and actions, as well as their own efforts to feed it some crumbs. In the last stanza, the poet employs imagery that departs from the practical or matter-of-fact observations of the earlier sections. Dickinson conveys that the bird is flying away by comparing motion through the sky to progress in and around water. Another aspect of the comparison evokes the motion of a butterfly.

Imagery is the use of any or all of the five senses in a text to evoke a powerful impression in the reader. In the last stanza, Dickinson employs vision, touch, and sound. The speaker presents what they see but also their impressions of motion that is occurring or that would happen in a different situation. The imagery is combined with metaphorical descriptions. For example, the phrase “too silver for a seam” uses the color silver in combination with a seam, which would literally refer to joined edges in clothing but here stands for any line or edge.

The last line of stanza 4 introduced the idea of motion through water with the word “rowed,” presumably indicating the motion of the bird’s wings as it flew away. The last stanza continues and expands this metaphor and the watery association by comparing the wings to oars that move through the ocean. The last two lines evoke an unusual image of butterflies swimming and leaping, rather than flying. The vivid visual image contrasts with the soundless auditory one through the word “plashless,” meaning they do not make a splash. This comparison to an almost weightless insect likewise makes the flying bird seem light.

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