The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“A narrow Fellow in the Grass” (the title is not Emily Dickinson’s, since she did not title her poems) is a short poem of thirty-two lines divided into five stanzas. The poem begins and ends with two balanced stanzas of four lines each, which surround a central stanza of eight lines. Dickinson’s poems appear to many readers to be written in free verse; the underlying metrical structure of her poetry, however, incorporates the traditional pattern of English hymnody: alternating lines of eight syllables and six syllables. Although Dickinson employs this traditional metrical pattern as a model in her verse, she frequently violates and strains against its conventions.

The poem is written in the first person from the point of view of an adult male (“Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—/ I”). The poem thus uses the voice of a persona—a speaker other than the poet—who initiates a cordial relationship with the audience, addressing the reader directly: “You may have met Him—did you not.”

The poem is structured to relate the speaker’s experience in encountering nature, specifically in the form of a snake. The speaker begins by characterizing the snake in friendly, civilized terms: The snake is a “Fellow” who “rides” in the grass, a familiar presence that even the reader has encountered. Again, in the second stanza, the snake appears to act in a civilized manner as it “divides” the grass “as with a comb.” Despite the...

(The entire section is 487 words.)