“Butterfly,” written in free verse, consists of sixteen lines arranged in three groups of six, six, and four lines. At the core of the poem is a typical nature reverie, except that here the processes of observation and abstraction are reversed. In conventional nature poetry, observation of a concrete object inspires the poet to achieve a deeper insight, but in this poem the actual butterfly is embedded in interpretive associations. As the poet contemplates the butterfly, two different images are summoned. The first image, a visionary flight from the center of the earth, can be regarded as an association inspired by the second image, a butterfly lighting on a rose.
The poem begins with the poet directly addressing the butterfly and admiring its beautiful colors. Paradoxically, its colorfulness is tied to the image of dust and the concept of “aftermath.” The presence of dust is easily explained in terms of a natural phenomenon—when one lightly brushes a butterfly’s wings, a powdery residue remains. Yet dust connotes death as well: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). In view of this second interpretation of dust, the connection to “aftermath” and the implied destruction is clearer.
The poet’s subsequent observation is equally contradictory on the surface. The reader is told that the butterfly has made the journey from the earth’s flaming core, passing through the stony outer layer. These...
(The entire section is 584 words.)