Nature, the Gentlest Mother: Summary and Analysis

Nature, the gentlest mother is a poem written by Emily Dickinson. Unlike her other nature-centric poems, we see that she has given a motherly persona to Nature, bringing out a positive tone in the poetry. Emily Dickinson lived a life of recluse away from people but enjoyed and dwelled in nature immensely. We see this influence throughout her poetical life. In this poem, nature is portrayed as the mother of all beings and creatures who take care of everyone regardless of their shortcomings.

Nature, the Gentlest Mother Summary

NATURE, the gentlest mother,
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest—
Her admonition mild

Nature is calm and patient with her children. She is patient with the feeble and the strangest of them all. She does not discriminate among her children. Even her tone of admonition or scolding is mild. Nature is portrayed as a caring mother devoted to her children and loves every single being that belongs to her without any discrimination. The usage of the mother figure for nature is the personification of the motherly characters to Nature itself.

In forest and the hill
By traveler be heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.

The second stanza brings out the motherly instinct in nature where she restrains her children amidst humans. Nature is present everywhere in the forests and well the hills. The traveler hears denote humans in general. Humans are also Nature’s children, but humans tend to destroy more than Nature. Therefore we see that mother nature is hushing down and restraining the rampant squirrel and the erratic bird so that the humans do not harm them or be enticed by them. Another notion that might be depicted is that travelers are found to explore only the hills and the forests, and they are clearly able to witness Nature in all its glory. Therefore, Mother Nature has to ensure that humans do not do something that negatively impacts her children in the name of invention and exploration. The animals are said to have stopped making noise once the humans approached.

How fair her conversation
A summer afternoon,
Her household her assembly;
And when the sun goes down,

In the 3rd stanza, the focus is back on Nature, where Emily praises the workings of nature and all her aspects. Nature survives through every season and change. The words household and assembly hold strong points because nature is personified as a mother. Therefore like a mother’s household assets, nature looks after her assembly of children and household of greenery. The last line of the stanza continues to the next para, shifting the setting to the end of the day as the sun goes down.

Her voice among the aisles
Incite the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.

Nature prays and acknowledges the voices of the smallest of creatures inciting the prayer, regardless of how unworthy the creature might seem. It describes nature’s voice flowing between aisles. Aisles are normally in a church, which makes this mother seem like she is faithful to God. Nature’s voice is being described as if praying. She is praying for her children, which are listed below to what humans usually think as inferior. One of which is an “unworthy flower.” Flowers that are wilted or ugly are seen as even more inferior since this plant is perceived as the most beautiful of all creations. Dickinson stresses the ugly, unworthy flower to express the unconditional love of mother nature.

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When all the children sleep,
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps,
Then bending from the sky

The first line described the night when all her children are asleep. Her children include all the beings of the world. Even when her children are asleep, she has other duties that she needs to take care of. Therefore we see in the next three lines where Nature is going a long way to light her lamps for the next day. “Bending from the sky”  indicates the setting of the sun. Since the sun is setting, she will have to go a long way to get the light back for the next day. This stanza picturizes the scene of a day ending and Nature waiting for the next day to start.

With infinite affection
Infinite care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.

The last stanza of the poem brings us to the end of the night, where this is a sense of calm before the day begins again and the cycle continues. With all her affection and boundless care, Nature is seen to hush down her children with a finger on her lip and brings silence everywhere. The golden finger indicates the ideal mother who has the golden touch of calming her children instantly.

Nature, the Gentlest Mother Analysis

The poem NATURE, the gentlest mother, is a poem that brings out the human elements of motherhood within nature’s sphere. For ages, nature has always been denoted with the stature of a mother. Emily Dickinson tries to bring out Nature as the ideal mother who loves and takes care of her children without any sense of bias or discrimination. Throughout her poems, we see that all the nature-centric words have their first letter capitalized.

In this poem, we see that she begins the poem with the word “NATURE” in bold capital letters, stressing the poem’s message and essence. Through the first line itself, she declares nature as the gentlest mother. A world and its beings are seen as nature’s children. She loves and takes care of her children regardless of their stature or growth in the world. She is unbiased and loves every child equally and unconditionally. She represents the ideal mother who loves her children unconditionally and prays for their wellbeing.

There is a sense of comparison between nature and humans. While Nature is unbiased and non-discriminatory, humans are considered to be destructive and selfish. We see in the second stanza that Emily shows Nature cautioning and restraining her children as travelers pass by the hills and forests. Though humans are also Nature’s children, Mother nature perceives humans as an entity that might be a threat to her other children.

Nature, the Gentlest Mother Theme

The poem is reflective and reverential. Throughout the poem, there is a sense of praise and gratitude towards Nature and its functioning. Emily is putting Nature on a pedestal by giving it the title of motherhood. The poem is reflective of Emily’s perception of nature and its place in her life.  The running theme throughout the poem is Motherhood. The instincts of love, care, protection, and unbiased compassion of motherhood are reflected beautifully in Nature through this poem.  

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The poem is a symbolism of Nature as an ideal mother and questioning human behavior in lying undertone.