Summary of “These are the days when the birds come back”
About the poem: These are the days when the birds come back is a poem that’s essential to Emily Dickinson’s collection of poems. It represents her style of writing where the tone of words indicates the sullen melancholic mood that overtook her life. Emily led a life of seclusion, she did not socialize a lot. She was confined to her room and often witnessed burials and ceremonies as her room overlook a graveyard. In this poem, the poet questions the course of nature and religion in a person’s life and dwells in the matters of changing seasons.
These are the days when Birds come back—
A very few—a Bird or two—
To take a backward look.
Emily is talking of the days that go by between the end of summer and the beginning of the fall where the nature is erratic and birds migrate to other countries. A few birds are seen to come back and take a look at the seasons changing. The unpredictability of nature during this period of time draws out an illusion that fools the birds. The changing seasons give a false impression that the summer days are not ending. The gradual shift in the season gives hope. Hence, the birds turn back to have a second glance.
These are the days when skies resume
The old—old sophistries of June—
A blue and gold mistake.
According to Emily, these are the days when the skies are deceiving. “Sophistries of June” indicates the changing skies of June when the summer is ending and the fall is taking over. She calls it a blue and gold mistake as the sky is filled with deceiving hues which does not indicate a specific season and confuse the people. Through this stanza, we see how Emily is amused with the unpredictability of nature and its course
Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee—
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.
Even though the sky can deceive the people and the birds, the bees are not fooled by the flowers in the fall to the actual summer flowers. This act of nature strengthens the belief of the poet that nature’s course is unpredictable but rational in its own way. Emily looked towards nature all her life. Hence, the beauty of seasonal change baffled her. The active disagreement by the bees to the false flowers of the fall added to her belief. She tries to draw parallels between the religion of her era. She did not believe extensively in the age of puritanism and Christianity. Hence, she signifies the religion and her perceived notion of it being false through the imagery of bees and false flowers. She reflects the religious beliefs of followers to the bees who are attracted to the nectar of the flowers.
Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.
As the summer ends, the flowers are seeding and the birds are migrating indicating the end of a season. Emily draws a very picturesque scene, where she describes leaves twirling through the wind. The timid leaf might even signify the fleeting emotions that Emily is going through as the season changes. “The rank of seeds their witness bear” indicates that the seeds are witnessing the change of seasons and exposed to the surrounds.
Oh Sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join.
In this stanza we the religious influence over Emily’s writing. She did not agree with the religion of her age and questioned the nuances of the beliefs. The use of religious glorification is seen in the words like “Sacrament” and “Last Communion”.
She is praying to the nature like the believers in the Church asking the summer days just to stay for a little while longer so that she can enjoy it for just a while. “Child “here indicates the post herself.
Thy sacred emblems to partake—
They consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!
This stanza is more on the line of a mockery of the religion and embracing of nature. She wants the summer to prolong so that she can partake in its beauty and enjoy the fruits of bread and wine. Bread and wine is a biblical reference to the flesh and blood of Jesus. Here, she symbolizes bread and wine to the beauty and fruits of nature. The ulterior meaning of the poem is to address the issue of embracing nature as much as religion. Since Emily was against the Puritan ways of tradition and religion, she embraced nature and spoke about it in many of her works.
Nature has played a very important role in Emily’s life and she has always expressed it through her unconventional ways. She stresses the use of nature’s elements in the poem by capitalizing the first letter of the word. In this poem, we see the words “Birds “and “Bees” are capitalized. There is a sense of animosity towards the religion that was majorly followed in her era. She had a difference of opinion on the ways of teachings of the religion. Therefore, we can see the tone of questioning when she speaks of religion through the elements of nature. Changing of seasons brings about erratic emotions which have been expressed in the poem evidently. The usage of biblical elements and references ensure that she acknowledges the existence of the religion and its importance at that point in time.
Nature and its elements have always been the muse to many poet’s writings. With Emily Dickinson, we see that her poetry related to nature or religion is very unconventional. She does not follow a set rhyming scheme or rules of poetry. She is rather seen to be experimenting and creating her own style of writing. Nature in its essence is questioned in this poem and many others. She has a very different association with nature than the other poets. She gives a unique and personal perspective to it which makes it more relatable to the reader at a different level.
Unpredictability of nature
The changing of seasons which reflects her fleeting emotions plays a very significant role in this poem. We see that the days of the seasonal change seem to deceive as some birds come back thinking summer is prolonged for just a little while. This might reflect on the flickering hope of hers that keeps swaying with the seasons. Humans tend to assume things work in a certain manner and predict the future and tend to forget that nature is an independent course that cannot be entirely influenced. Emily has tried to elucidate this pint through the poem.
In the era of the 18th century, Puritanism had a strong hold on the western population. Hence, anyone who questioned its existence was considered detached and abnormal. Emily was one of the few who was against the ideologies of this faith. She has questioned religion and ethics through many of her poems. In this poem, she has used religious elements to elucidate nature and its elements. She has tried to bring nature on par with religion. At the time of Emily’s life, people had reverence and blind belief in the faith which made them a large part of the population rigid in its thoughts. While Emily was not one of them, her family were staunch followers and expected her to do the same. She, on the other hand, questioned the happenings through her written poetical texts.
The tone of the poem is reflective as it tries to bring out connections and correlations of nature and humanly believes. It has a personal front to it where she has put in elements of her life and connected it with nature. In an era when women’s opinions didn’t hold validity, there was a woman, named Emily Dickinson who questioned the authority and faith through literature.
In this lovely poem, Emily Dickinson has beautifully portrayed the natural elements to express her personal beliefs. There is a sense of animosity towards the religion that was majorly followed in her era. Therefore, we can see the tone of questioning when she speaks of religion through the elements of nature. Changing of seasons brings about erratic emotions which have been expressed in the poem evidently.