Analysis Of A Poem
'Arcturus' is his other name
By: Emily Dickinson
Part I: Analysis of a poem
'Arcturus' is his other name—
I'd rather call him 'Star.'
It's very mean of Science
To go and interfere!
I slew a worm the other day—
A 'Savant' passing by
'Oh Lord—how frail are we'!
I pull a flower from the woods—
A monster with a glass
Computes the stamens in a breath—
And has her in a 'class'!
Whereas I took the Butterfly
Aforetime in my hat—
He sits erect in 'Cabinets'—
The Clover bells forgot.
What once was 'Heaven'
Is 'Zenith' now—
Where I proposed to go
When Time's brief masquerade was done
Is mapped and charted too.
What if the poles should frisk about
And stand upon their heads!
I hope I'm ready for 'the worst'—
Whatever prank betides!
Perhaps the 'Kingdom of Heaven's' changed—
I hope the 'Children' there Won't be 'new fashioned' when I come—
And laugh at me—and stare—
I hope the Father in the skies
Will lift his little girl—
Over the stile of 'Pearl.'
I feel that Ms. Dickinson is trying to express how sick and tired she is of science and scientists interfering with nature and making everything more complicated than it really is. For example, in lines 1-4, Ms. Dickinson talks about a particular star with the scientific name 'Arcturus' that she refers to as “star”. Ms. Dickinson wishes scientists would not interfere with nature and would stop referring to stars by scientific names.
In lines 5-8, Emily recounts a past experience in which she killed a worm as a ‘Savant’ (French for a person of high intelligence) was passing by, prompting the man to call the worm by its specific scientific name, centipede. The man then says to the now deceased worm, “Resurgam (Latin for “I shall rise again”) — Centipede' if you have ever tried to kill a centipede, you know how difficult it is, since they always seem to “rise again”. In line # 8, when the man says: 'Oh Lord—how frail are we! ” He seems to be referring to how frail humans are compared to the seemingly ever living centipede.
Lines 9-12 have Ms. Dickinson recalling another past experience in which she pulled a flower in the woods, only to have a botanist with a magnifying glass, whom she metaphorically refers to as a “monster with a glass”, examine and classify it.
Lines 13-16 describe how in the past, Dickinson was able to admire butterflies in their natural habitats without annoying scientists running around catching and classifying everything in sight. Now she can no longer marvel at the sheer beauty of butterflies in their natural environments. Instead, she now must think of butterflies as “scientific specimens” and not just simple butterflies. Also, she can no longer observe them in their natural habitats; instead she must look at them lying in cabinets and frames dead as can be.
In lines 17-21, Emily used to hope that when she died, she would get to heaven which used to be mysterious and unknown. But now heaven is no longer unknown, now it is “mapped and charted”.
I believe that the “poles” Dickinson is referring to in lines 22-25, are none other than the North and South Poles. She is saying that her life is so complicated that if the world itself were to literally turn upside down, she would not be surprised.
Lines 27-29 are important because Emily refers to a passage in the Bible (Matthew 19: 14) where Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of heaven.” Suffer, in this context, does not mean harm. Basically, Emily is hoping that when she dies and goes to heaven, the sweet and innocent children of God will not change like everything else around her.
Lines 30-33 Emily feels that although everything else has changed, she is still the same. She hopes that because of this, God will help her over the pearly gates and lift her into heaven, just the way she is.
In conclusion, Ms. Dickinson enjoyed and appreciated nature and felt that everything was more beautiful naturally. I believe that the overall message of this poem is that Ms. Dickinson preferred things simple and old fashioned, rather than complicated and new fashioned. Her strong feelings and beliefs make her poem unique and meaningful.