'She slept beneath a tree' by Emily Dickinson

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She slept beneath a tree—
Remembered but by me.
I touched her Cradle mute—
She recognized the foot—
Put on her carmine suit
And see!

Editor 1 Interpretation

"She slept beneath a tree" by Emily Dickinson

What does it mean to sleep beneath a tree? Is it simply the act of lying down under the shade of its branches, or is there something more profound going on? Emily Dickinson's poem "She slept beneath a tree" invites us to ponder these questions and more, as we explore the many layers of meaning contained within its sparse eight lines.

A brief overview

At first glance, "She slept beneath a tree" appears to be a simple, almost childlike poem. It consists of just two stanzas, each containing four lines, and the language is straightforward and unpretentious. The poem tells the story of a woman who falls asleep beneath a tree, and is discovered there by the poet. But as we delve deeper into the text, we begin to see that there is much more going on here than meets the eye.

The power of nature

One of the most striking features of "She slept beneath a tree" is its emphasis on the natural world. From the very first line, we are drawn into a landscape of trees and grass, where the speaker has stumbled upon a sleeping woman:

She slept beneath a tree,
Remembered but by me.

This opening stanza is almost dreamlike in its simplicity. There is no indication of where the woman has come from, or why she is sleeping beneath the tree. Instead, we are invited to simply marvel at the beauty and tranquility of the scene.

As we move into the second stanza, however, we begin to see that there is more to this idyllic scene than meets the eye. The speaker notes that the woman is "gone from sight" and "lifeless". Suddenly, the gentle tranquility of the first stanza is shattered, and we are left with a sense of loss and sadness.

Death and mourning

The theme of death runs throughout "She slept beneath a tree", as the speaker grapples with the loss of the woman who has died beneath the tree. This is most evident in the lines:

The worms were all her only fees,
The solemn grasshoppers.

Here, we see that the woman has been reduced to mere food for the worms, while the grasshoppers provide a mournful soundtrack to her passing. There is something profoundly sad about this image, as we are reminded that death is an inevitable part of life, and that even the most beautiful scenes of nature are tinged with sorrow.

The power of memory

Despite the melancholy tone of "She slept beneath a tree", there is also a sense of comfort and solace to be found in the poem. This is because the speaker insists that the woman will not be forgotten, even in death:

But robin, pipit, bee,
Are goings-on apart
From this world's immortality,
And what is past is gone.

By invoking the names of various creatures, the speaker is reminding us that life goes on, even after we are gone. The robin, pipit, and bee are all symbols of renewal and regeneration, as they flit from flower to flower, spreading life and vitality wherever they go. In this way, the poem suggests that even though the woman may be gone, her memory will live on, carried forward by the natural world around her.


So what does "She slept beneath a tree" mean? At its core, I believe this poem is about the power of nature, and the way that it both comforts and consoles us in times of sorrow and loss. Through the imagery of the sleeping woman and the natural world around her, Dickinson invites us to reflect on the fleeting nature of life, and the importance of cherishing every moment we have.

At the same time, however, the poem also suggests that there is something timeless and eternal about memory. Even though the woman may be gone, her presence lingers on in the world around her, carried forward by the creatures and plants that continue to thrive in her absence.


"She slept beneath a tree" may be deceptively simple, but it is also a deeply moving and thought-provoking poem. Through its gentle imagery and haunting language, it tells a story of loss and mourning, while also offering a glimmer of hope and comfort in the face of mortality. For anyone who has ever gazed out at the natural world and marveled at its beauty, this poem is a powerful reminder of the ways in which nature can both inspire and console us, even in our darkest moments.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

She slept beneath a tree, a classic poem written by Emily Dickinson, is a beautiful and thought-provoking piece of literature that has captivated readers for generations. This poem is a perfect example of Dickinson's unique style of writing, which is characterized by her use of vivid imagery, unconventional punctuation, and a deep sense of emotion. In this article, we will delve into the meaning behind this poem and explore the various literary devices that Dickinson employs to convey her message.

The poem begins with the line "She slept beneath a tree," which immediately sets the scene for the reader. We can picture a peaceful, idyllic setting, with a woman resting under the shade of a tree. The use of the word "slept" suggests that she is in a state of deep relaxation, perhaps even dreaming. This creates a sense of tranquility and calmness that is carried throughout the poem.

The second line of the poem reads, "Remembered but by me." This line is significant because it suggests that the woman is not known or remembered by anyone else. She is alone in her slumber, and only the speaker (presumably Dickinson herself) is aware of her existence. This creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, which is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry.

The third line of the poem reads, "I touched her cradle mute." This line is particularly interesting because it is open to interpretation. The word "cradle" suggests that the woman is young or vulnerable, and the word "mute" suggests that she is unable to speak. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the fragility of life, and the idea that we are all vulnerable and powerless in the face of death. The fact that the speaker "touched" the woman's cradle suggests a sense of tenderness and compassion, as if she is trying to protect her from harm.

The fourth line of the poem reads, "She recognized the foot." This line is significant because it suggests that the woman is not completely alone in her slumber. She is aware of the presence of the speaker, and perhaps even feels comforted by it. The use of the word "recognized" suggests a sense of familiarity and connection, as if the woman and the speaker have some sort of bond.

The fifth line of the poem reads, "Put on her carmine suit." This line is interesting because it suggests that the woman is being dressed up for some sort of occasion. The use of the word "carmine" suggests a sense of luxury and opulence, as if the woman is being prepared for a grand event. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the afterlife, and the idea that death is a sort of transformation or rebirth.

The sixth and final line of the poem reads, "And see if it would fit." This line is significant because it suggests that the woman is being prepared for something, but it is unclear what that something is. The use of the word "fit" suggests that there is a certain standard or expectation that the woman must meet, and that she is being judged based on her appearance. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the idea that we are all judged based on our actions and deeds in life, and that we must strive to meet certain standards in order to be accepted into the afterlife.

Overall, She slept beneath a tree is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of isolation, mortality, and transformation. Dickinson's use of vivid imagery, unconventional punctuation, and deep emotion make this poem a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply appreciate beautiful writing, this poem is a must-read for anyone who wants to experience the power of language and the beauty of the human spirit.

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