The Poem A Day by Emily Dickinson
Summary of A Day
The poem "A Day" has been composed by Emily Dickinson. She was an American poet. In this poem, she describes the rising and setting of the sun. These two natural processes are delivered in both literal and symbolic ways. On a literal level, it is told from the perspective of an innocent child. The child in his innocence expresses his views on sunrise and sunset. The whole poem symbolises the transition from life to death.
Through the use of brilliant imagery and symbols, she describes a beautiful day that leads the children from innocence to experience. The poem begins with the speaker declaring how the sun rises or day begins. The sunrays are presented as a series of ribbons at a time. With the sunlight, the steeples of the churches are covered with a deep violet colour like amethyst. The news of sunrise spreads so fast like squirrels running.
In the second stanza, the hills are personified. The hills untied their bonnets. Before sunrise, the hills are wearing the cap of mist which is cleared by the sunrays and their heat. As the sun rises, the mist which is the metaphorical bonnet, over the hills evaporates. This inspires the bobolinks to begin their morning song. She thinks that it is because of sunrise. Sunrise is the symbol of birth or the beginning of life. It is the speaker’s innocence to understand worldly activities. She only sees the beautiful things of life.
In the third stanza, the speaker becomes less confident describing the activity of sunset. She says that she is unaware to describe the mysterious sunset. There appears a purple stile. The yellow boys and girls climb the purple stile.
When the day ends, the yellow boys and girls are led away by a dominie. The dominie gently puts up the evening bars and takes the children away. This means they are taken to a dark place. The darkness or the sunset signifies death or the end of life. The evening bars symbolize a sense of security. This gives the reader hope.
Different literary devices like symbolism, alliteration, metaphor, simile, personification etc. are found in the poem.
Who is the writer of The Poem 'A Day'?
One of the most eminent American poets from the nineteenth century, Emily Dickinson’s (1830-1886) poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town. These upbringings were inculcated in her Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity.
Dickinson and Walt Whitman are considered the founders of a uniquely American poetic voice. While Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet her regularly enclosed poems in letters to friends she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. However, she has been steadily gaining popularity through her posthumously published poems. In her poem “A Day”, Dickinson, through the use of brilliant imageries and symbols, describes a beautiful day that leads the children from innocence to experience.
Exercise of the Poem A Day
Understanding the Text
a. How does the poet describe the morning sun in the first stanza?
➡ In the first stanza, the poet describes the morning sun rising in the sky, deep violet colours like amethyst in the steeples of the churches and the quick natural process as squirrels run. It is presented as a stripe of ribbons which refers to the rays of the sun.
b. What does the line ‘The news like squirrels ran’ mean?
➡ The line ‘The news like squirrels ran’ is an example of a simile which means the process of sunrise is very quickly like the squirrel’s run. This line describes the natural process of sunrise in the morning time. This process is as quick as the run of squirrels that makes everyone realise the arrival of morning.
c. What do you understand by the line ‘The hills untied their bonnets?
➡ By the line 'The hills United their bonnets', we understand the natural changes that appear in the hills because of the presence of the sunrise. Before sunrise, the hills are covered with mist-like wearing bonnets which are cleared by the rays of the sun after sunrise. As the sun rises, the heat of the sun's rays unties the mists over the hills. The hills become clean and clear.
d. Is the speaker watching the morning sun? Why? Why not?
➡ No, the speaker isn't watching the morning sun because in this poem he or she talks about both sunrise and sunset. These two activities are not possible to happen at the same time. He/ she is just narrating the event.
e. How does the sunset?
➡ The speaker doesn’t know how the sunsets. It sets quite mysteriously and confuses the speaker much. He/she has less confidence in describing the sunset. According to him/her, the sun's rays seem purple and yellow during sunset time. When the sun sets, it takes away all the happiness and joy of daytime and it will change into sadness and darkness.
Reference to the Context
a. What, according to the speaker, is a day?
➡ According to the speaker, a day is a time of joy and happiness. It is a perfect blend of various changes in nature. Here sunrise refers to the birth or creation and sunset refers to the death or end. So, daytime has various literal and symbolic meanings regarding tremendous changes in a lifetime from birth till death and the changes in nature during the growing period.
b. What purpose does the hyphen in the first-line service in the poem?
➡ The hyphen (-) in the first line serves as break or silence. In this poem, the poet has used the hyphen to create a more pronounced pause in reading. The speaker thinks about what and how to tell about sunrise and to give more emphasis to the description of sunrise, he/she uses a hyphen to pause at the end of the first line.
c. What makes this poem lyrical and sonorous? Discuss.
➡ Different literary devices like alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm etc. and the personal feeling and emotion make the poem lyrical and sonorous. is wonderful in the sense that it is full of both literal and symbolic meanings.
d. Who is the target audience of the speaker? Why?
➡ Here, the speaker of the poem is a newly born child who is innocent. He/ she describes a day along with two beautiful aspects (sunrise and sunset) of this natural world through his/her perspective. By describing these two natural processes of sunrise and sunset, he/she wants to make clear the natural phenomenon to all humankind. So, the target audience of the speaker is both children and adults.
e. The poem seems to describe a day for children.
How would the adult people respond to this poem?
Discuss this poem with your parents/guardians and write the answer based on their responses.
➡ For this task, talk to your parent and get some ideas to develop your answer. You can also relate the thematic ideas of the poem with your own to have your own answer
Reference Beyond the Text
a. Write a poem based on your own experience.
Use your own creativity to produce the answer. A sample is provided below
➡ The night draws to a close, Red-orange light begins to emancipate itself... Purple and blue with a reddish-orange hue. Amazing beauty is revealed... It's as though the earth has been struck by gold ribbons. This is a beautiful scene with a ray of hope in... Let's forget about last night. We begin each new day with an amazing sight. The heart is enjoying for a day start like this, The trip begins with a fresh desire and wish…….
b. Write a personal essay on A Day in the School.
This is a sample essay for your help. You can write your own narrative essay in a similar way
A Day in the School
School life is the golden period of man’s life. It is the period of learning manners and making habits. It is the period of enjoying and merrymaking with friends and classmates. I am a student of grade 12 at a reputed school in Pokhara. The time flees very soon in studies and plays at school. It makes such life as is never available afterwards. A day at my school is like a chain of work and enjoyment. My school starts at 9:30 a.m. I always reach the school in time. The first bell is the bell for prayer. All the students stand in the queue of their respective classes. Everyone puts on the same uniform. At the word of command of the P.T.I., every student acts as a machine.
The defaulters and latecomers have to stand in a separate line. The prayer starts and ends with the National Anthem. After the prayer is over the Vice Principal of our school reads out some very important current news and information to us. Some of the other necessary announcement is also made if there is any. After this, the students go to their classes in lines. The defaulters and latecomers are held up. They are warned and some of them are even punished for being late or not wearing school uniforms or disobeying the orders. The duration of every period is forty-five minutes.
My class teacher is our English teacher. He often takes up the text in the first period. His lesson is very interesting. He explains to us everything in detail. He makes use of anecdotes to make us understand every point clearly. The next period is for mathematics. Our mathematics teacher is very strict. He gets work from every student and never spares the shirkers. Our Nepali teacher is a very simple man. He has a very sweet voice. He recites verses in such a sweet voice that we are simply charmed Up to fourth-period teaching and we are simply charmed. Up to fourth-period teaching and learning work goes on without any break. Then follows the recess period. The recess period in our school is an hour of din and noise.
As soon as the bell for the recess goes, the students rush out quickly. Most of them run towards the canteen to have some refreshment, lunch, tea etc. They stand in a queue to take their eatables or tea. They sit at the dining table to eat. They talk and laugh at certain points and incidents in the classroom. Some of them discuss politics; others talk of films and matches. After taking eatables, they throw the remains in the dust bin. Our teachers also relax and rest in the staff room. None of the students is allowed to enter the staff room during recess. The teachers also enjoy their lunch, tea etc. In a word, the recess period is to refresh and remove our fatigue so that we may pursue our work again. Three periods follow after the recess.
We are taught by our respective teachers. We attend every lesson with the most care. But the last period is a bit boring. The teacher taking the last period is not annoyed if the students request him to allow them to do some writing work in that period. He readily accedes to our request. In this way, the time is not wasted but utilized. With the ringing of the bell, all of us leave the school with our satchels and bags. The school presents a noisy atmosphere for a short while. It almost becomes deserted and silent as soon as the students go out of the main entrance to their houses. So, that’s all about a day of my school life in the school.