A Bird, came down the Walk Poem by Emily Dickinson Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


A Bird, came down the Walk is a poem written by the American poet Emily Dickinson. The poem can be found in the second collection of poetry, Poems: Second Series, which was published posthumously in 189. “A Bird, came down the Walk” is included in this collection and many other editions of Dickinson’s complete works, including The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, edited by R.W. Franklin, which came out in 1999. The poem vividly depicts a bird and its behavioural aspects as it devours a worm and takes on the role of a predator. However, the other side of the bird is also shown as it realises the speaker’s presence, and smoothly takes flight on becoming a prey. Thus, the poem showcases the dual nature of the natural world itself. 

About the Author 

Born on the 10th December 1830, in Massachusetts, Emily Dickinson is an American poet and is considered to be one of the most important and influential figures in American literature. Dickinson’s poetry is characterised by its unconventional use of punctuation, capitalisation, and form. Her work often explores themes such as death, nature, love, and the human experience. Her language is rich with metaphor, symbolism, and vivid imagery, and her concise and enigmatic verses continue to captivate readers with their depth and complexity. Some of her famous poems are  I taste a liquor never brewed, I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, I’m Nobody! Who are you?, ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers, and A Bird, came down the Walk. Her contribution to American literature has grown in recognition over time, solidifying her legacy as a poetic pioneer. 


The poem consists of 20 lines, which are divided into five quatrains (stanzas consisting of four lines). There is no set poetic form in which the poem is written in. 

Lines 1- 8

A Bird, came down the Walk - 

He did not know I saw -

He bit an Angle Worm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw, 

And then, he drank a Dew

From a convenient Grass -

And then hopped sidewise to the Wall

To let a Beetle pass -


The poem begins with the speaker establishing the scene in front of them and also mentioning the subject of their gaze. The speaker here, observes a bird coming down a walk and notes that the bird is unaware of being watched by the speaker. The bird goes on to bite an angelworm in half and eats it raw. Then, the bird goes on to drink dew from the grass, which is “convenient” or easily accessible to it. And then the bird hops sideways to the wall to let a passing beetle go by. 


The poet creates a vivid image of a bird who seems to act normally, without being aware of the speaker’s watchful gaze. Dickinson’s work was heavily influenced by the American romantics such as Whitman and Emerson. This is why, the values of Transcendentalism, which include focusing on the beauty of nature, can be seen here. The poet has personified both the bird and the angelworm in order to humanise them but also depicts them in a predator-prey relationship.  Nature, in the first stanza, is thus depicted to be a ruthless place. However, this changes in the second stanza, as the bird drinks dew and lets a beetle pass by. The image depicted is serene and portrays nature and natural creatures to be considerate and caring. 

Lines 9-16

He glanced with rapid eyes,

That hurried all abroad -

They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,

He stirred his Velvet Head. - 

Like one in danger, Cautious,

I offered him a Crumb,

And he unrolled his feathers, 

And rowed him softer Home -


Here, the bird, who was unaware of the speaker’s gaze and thus, at ease, becomes watchful. It glances into its surroundings with rapid eyes, which scan everything around it. The speaker compares the bird’s eyes to “frightened Beads”. The bird smoothly stirs his “velvet” head. As the speaker realises the bird’s unease and caution, they attempt to offer him a crumb to placate it. But the bird, who is suddenly made aware of the speaker’s presence, flies away. It unrolled its feathers and rowed them towards its home. 


A shift occurs in this section of the poem as the bird, who was earlier a predator, suddenly becomes prey under the attentive eye of the speaker. Thus, nature has a dual and fluid nature which seems to constantly shift. A creature thus, is both a predator and a prey under different conditions. Also, the speaker lends more human attributes to the bird, which can be seen in phrases like, “frightened beads”, and “rapid eyes”. This not only shows an attempt by the speaker to feel empathy for the bird but also shows the speaker’s reliability on the subject’s eyes to gauge its reactions and expressions. 

Lines 17-20

Than Oars divide the Ocean,

Too silver for a seam,

Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,

Leap, plashless as they swim.


The final stanza provides a vivid description of the bird’s smooth movement. The speaker remarks that the bird’s feathers fly him home smoother and softer than the oars of a boat that divides the ocean. The speaker also compares the bird’s flight to the elegant leap of a butterfly as it softly glides off the “Banks of Noon”. 


As the bird moves away from the dangers of predators and glides smoother than boats and butterflies, it seamlessly becomes a serene part of the natural world, at one with air. Thus, a clear contrast is established in the poem- the bird, which is a representative of the natural world, is both merciless and predatory on one side, and beautiful and serene on the other. The bird and the speaker are both guided by the dual emotions of fear and wonder, which ultimately unites them as creatures of nature.