A Narrow Fellow In The Grass Poem By Emily Dickinson Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


The poem was first published in 1865. Having been Emily Dickinson’s one of the most popular poems, the speaker in the poem recalls an encounter with a rather intriguing fellow in the grass. The poem essentialises that there is more than what meets the eyes.

About the Poet

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, born on 10th December in 1830 was an American poet.  She became popular after her demise and since has been regarded as a significant figure in American poetry. Although an admirable writer, only 10 of her works were published during her lifetime from amongst her 1,800 poems and a letter. Her poems often dealt with themes of nature, death, society and immortality. 

Stanzas 1 and 2

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides -
You may have met him? Did you not
His notice instant is -

The Grass divides as with a Comb,
A spotted Shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your Feet
And opens further on -

The first four lines acquaint the readers with the central subject of the poem, in essence the narrow fellow in the grass. This fellow seems to occasionally appear in the grass and this intrigues the speaker to investigate further.

The speaker in the poem actively engages the readers by asking them if they have ever encountered this fellow. The stanza also suggests that this fellow likes to take people by surprise. The stanza does an impressive job of not revealing the identity of the fellow and who this fellow is remains a mystery. 

The following four lines provide an enhanced insight into the fellow’s movement patterns. As the fellow moves, the grass parts and makes way for it and it leaves behind a trail that appears like a spotted shaft. By employing imagery, the poet creates a vivid picture of a fellow who is quick and nimble. The use of shaft in this stanza finally reveals that this fellow is a snake.

Stanzas 3 and 4

He likes a Boggy Acre -  
A Floor too cool for Corn -
But when a Boy and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon

Have passed I thought a Whip Lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled And was gone -

The third stanza sets forth a new revelation. The fellow prefers a particular type of environment. An environment that is a boggy acre, meaning that it is a place that is too wet for crops like corn. This means that the snake likes a cool and swampy region. Further elaborating with a personal anecdote, the speaker reveals that as a young boy, the speaker had encountered the snake.

This affirms that snakes are creatures that one might encounter in their everyday lives and some awareness is essential. Also, the fact that the speaker is a man becomes pretty  evident and this makes it known that the poet and speaker are not the same. This is an informative stanza.

In the following stanza, the speaker recalls an encounter where he mistook the snake to be a whip-lash. He compares the snake to a whip-lash unbraiding in the sun. However, once he went near it he understood that it was a snake and not a whip-lash as the snake slithered away in the grass. 

Stanzas 5 and 6

Several of Nature’s People
I know, and they know me
I feel for them a transport
Of Cordiality

But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.

The fifth stanza introduces the readers to the speaker’s relationship with other creatures in nature. The speaker suggests having a sense of familiarity and friendship with the other beings in nature, this establishes a sense of warmth and openness. This contrasts the relationship between the speaker and the snake as it is one of mystery and not much friendship.

The final stanza concludes the poem with a powerful statement about the speaker’s feelings when encountering the fellow in the grass. The speaker reveals that any time they meet, it leads to feelings of unease and fear. The phrase tighter breathing portrays that the speaker is on edge any time the snake is near and the phrase zero at bone suggests feeling a chill.