What does "purple" refer to in Emily Dickinson's poem "Where ships of purple - ; gently toss"? What is the meaning of ships here? what does purple symbolize in this poem? why did she use ships, to what they refer ?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Emily Dickinson’s poetry has always been rife with metaphors and imagery, and “Where ships of purple gently toss” is a great example.  The “ships” have been interpreted as flowers in a garden and also as clouds in the sky.  Laurence Perrine, in his essay “The Nature of Proof...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Emily Dickinson’s poetry has always been rife with metaphors and imagery, and “Where ships of purple gently toss” is a great example.  The “ships” have been interpreted as flowers in a garden and also as clouds in the sky.  Laurence Perrine, in his essay “The Nature of Proof in the Interpretation of Poetry,” believes that the “ships” are more of a reference to clouds, because some of the words that Dickinson uses don’t work as well with the image of a garden.

Instead of saying “daffodils,” which would work for the garden imagery, she uses only the singular “daffodil,” which suggests the color instead.  The “wharf” also doesn’t work well with the scene of a garden, but it could work with the scene of clouds going by in the sunset, rich with color and the images that we all can make up in the clouds we see.  Once the wind stops, though, the “wharf” or sky, is still.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team