I would like an analysis of Emily Dickinson's poem "A something in a summer's day" in regards to Transcendentalism.

2 Answers

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

According to one of the founders of the Transcendental period, the purpose of the period was for people to find a way to relate to the universe in their own personal way (Ralph Waldo Emerson). This being said, one would not necessarily have to write as a Transcendentalist to be considered one. Instead, the poet, or author, would simply need to show that they are relating to the universe on an individual level.

Given that Transcendentalism was a movement of which took place during the 1830s and 1840s, and Dickinson was born in 1830, she is not technically able to be considered a part of the Transcendental movement. Dickinson is historically recognized as a Romantic, given the period she wrote in, event though she typically stayed away from the Romantic ideas.

In her poem "A something in a summer's day", Dickinson reflects on the importance a summer day has on her life. The day is described as one which "solemnizes", "transcends", and "transports." In this fashion, the poem could be considered to be Transcendental based upon the fact that Dickinson recognizes her relation the the universe based upon the impact of nature (another of the Romantic's typical influences).

 

rmhope's profile pic

rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Transcendentalism, as exemplified by Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, promoted the values of nonconformity, free thought, self-reliance, confidence, and the importance of nature. In examining Emily Dickinson's poem "A something in a summer's day," readers can immediately see that the theme of the poem—reverence for nature—fits easily into Transcendentalism. Additionally, the structure of the poem reflects the Transcendentalist ideas of nonconformity and free thought.

The poem is consistent with Transcendentalism because of its celebration of nature. The entire poem gushes with praise of summer. Phrases such as "solemnizes me," "transcending ecstasy," and "thought their worshiping a too presumptuous psalm" reveal a very deep appreciation of nature that approaches a religious experience. Dickinson comments upon flora and fauna as she sings summer's praises, commenting on flowers, bees, and birds. The sunlight, sunset, wind, and wandering brook all garner the poet's adoration.

Dickinson exhibits the Transcendentalist tenet of nonconformity in this poem as she does in nearly all her verse. Although the poem begins with a consistent rhyme scheme of aab ccb ddb eeb, Dickinson breaks with her own form in the later stanzas. Stanzas 7–10 are triplets of near rhymes; the final stanza, depending on how one wants to look at it, either has no rhymes or near rhymes in the first and last line of the stanza. 

The way the idea progresses within the poem demonstrates free thought. The first stanza is a sentence fragment and does not conform to normal grammatical structure--it seems as if the words and thoughts are simply flowing freely from the poet's heart. This style permeates the poem; one would have difficulty diagramming the sentences. They seem to begin one way and then veer off into another form. To appreciate the poem, readers must abandon normal patterns of language and let their thoughts meander where the poet leads. 

Dickinson's poem about a summer is consistent with Transcendentalism because it displays reverence for nature, nonconformity, and free thought.

 

Sources: