Summary and Analysis of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves by Emily Dickinson: 2022

Introduction to the Poet:

Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She seldom spent her time outside home and her closest associates were her sister Lavinia, her brother Austin and the Reverend Charles Wadsworth, who she met on a trip to Philadelphia. Dickinson was fond of a metaphysical poetry writing style and has been labelled as one of the pioneers of a uniquely American poet voice along with her contemporary Walt Whitman. She passed away in Amherst in 1886, and most of her work, all in all forty bound volumes of her poetry was sold in her name posthumously.

Introduction to It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The poem “It Shifts From Leaden Sieves” by Emily Dickinson is based on snow and how it depicts a positive outlook towards life. The verses combine in metaphors and present beautiful imagery to capture an exquisite winter scene. The poet happily describes how snow rests on different terrain, over different landscapes and different properties. It revolves around the various attributes of snow, its textures, its behaviour and the like.

Setting of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The poem is set in classic 19th century American winter weather, where it snows occasionally and often heavily to form a cover and compile into a pretty display of nature. The poet is an indoor person and she observes the different mannerisms of snow in an admiring way, describing its qualities as it falls and shifts and sways on all kinds of man-made and natural elements. It is a scenic poem and its descriptive nature helps the reader to visualize settings exactly as the poet intends them to.

Poetic Devices in It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

Emily Dickinson has often been described as a lyrical poet due to her abstract descriptions of natural landscape in figurative language. In this poem, she tries to glorify snow as an impartial and thoughtful entity.
Imagery –
“It powders all the Wood”, “It reaches to the Fence”, “It makes an even Face”, “It ruffles Wrists of Posts”
Metaphor –
“Then stills its artisans like ghosts”, “A Summer’s empty room”
Personification –
“It makes an even face”, “The wrinkles of the road”
Symbolism –
“To stump and stack and stem” – shows the quantity and depth of snow.

Style of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The rhyme scheme in the poem is very abrupt. For the first stanza, there is a certain rhythm but no two words rhyme. The next two stanzas follow the abcb rhyme scheme, while the fourth stanza goes abca. The last stanza follows the abab rhyme scheme.

Summary of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The poem “It Shifts From Leaden Sieves” is a detailed description of the natural phenomenon that is snow. The poet starts with describing snow as a shifting presence. It shifts from leaden sieves, and covers the wood like a soft powdered embrace. It fills in the several cracks or “wrinkles” of age-old roads like fine wool from Alabaster.
The snow further moves to the mountains and the plains where it settles over the terrain in the form of an even “face”. It looks unbroken like a “forehead”, going towards East and reaching back. The snow does not segregate between the elements found in the world as it moves to rest upon the fences, wound around its rails. It looks like a heavenly veil, or thick fleece of white sheep as it stays.
The poet then claims the snow to be so abundant in quantity and quality, it reaches toll every stump, stack and stem, till rooms and rooms to fill the “emptiness” left inside by Summer. It also ventures to the Harvests, that had till now not been recorded but has begun otherwise because of snow.
It begins to ruffle standing posts as if playing with the ankle of a queen. The snow even moves towards the knights and artisans and stills them as ghosts, denying their already ghostly features. The poem ends with the snow experiencing an encounter with all forms of nature possible. The constructive, the earthly and the living.

Critical Analysis of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The entire poem “It Shifts From Leaden Sieves” by Emily Dickinson is an extended metaphor to exemplify the wonders of snowfall and where all the snow bestows its beauty upon. It is visibly an account of an inside person and is justified in the poet’s introvert nature. The language is figurative and described as an observation and idealization rather than an experience.
The poet describes the snow as a cover that is tender and gentle with wherever it rests on. The snow reaches out to roads and fences, hills and valleys and back to the shut indoors of houses, filling in wherever it can. It similarly, also seems to fill in to the poet’s hollow existence, shut between four walls. It probably also provides the poet with something to admire and think about.
The beautification of snow in various ways stems from this admiration. Apart from how mesmerizing snow serves to the human eye, the poet also makes the snow impartial. This is a take on humans and their biased mindset. The poet says unlike humans, snow does not differentiate and provides the same recluse to all forms of settlements. The snow is not only a captivating phenomenon, it is also something that ties all worlds together under its cover.

Central Idea of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The theme of the poem is snow. Around snow, the poet bases its powdery and woolly texture, its vast and minute cover, its entirety in different settings and its caressing qualities to various physical forms. The idea of the poem is to create admiration for the snow and glorify all its characteristics when it descends on Earth in winter.

Tone of It Sifts From Leaden Sieves:

The poet speaks in a very peaceful and content tone when she describes the snow outside and its appearance and activities. She seems to admire the impartial display created by snow and its captivating cover over the mountains, the roads and filling inside vacant rooms.


The poem is an admiring account of how the snow falls and rests on Earth without differentiating between any sort of landscape or man-made occurrences. It covers the entire land with its pure white embrace and serves as an example for both entirety and beauty.
Contributor: Sonalee Das

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