'It sifts from Leaden Sieves' by Emily Dickinson

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It sifts from Leaden Sieves—
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road—

It makes an Even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain—
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again—

It reaches to the Fence—
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces—
It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack—and Stem—
A Summer's empty Room—
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them--

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen—
Then stills its Artisans—like Ghosts—
Denying they have been—

Editor 1 Interpretation

It sifts from Leaden Sieves by Emily Dickinson: A Detailed Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Have you ever looked outside on a snowy day and marveled at the way the snowflakes seem to sift down from the sky? Emily Dickinson’s poem “It sifts from Leaden Sieves” paints a beautiful portrait of this winter phenomenon, but as with most of her works, there is so much more going on beneath the surface.

Form and Structure

At first glance, the poem may seem simple and straightforward: four stanzas of ABCB rhyme scheme, each stanza containing two lines of iambic trimeter followed by two lines of iambic tetrameter. However, Dickinson’s use of language and punctuation is anything but simple.

The first thing to note is the title itself. “It sifts from Leaden Sieves” is a perfect example of Dickinson’s affinity for using concrete, tangible objects to represent abstract concepts. The image of snow sifted through a heavy, gray sieve immediately sets the tone for the poem: cold, heavy, and monotonous.

But then, in the first line of the poem, we are thrown off balance. Dickinson writes, “It sifts from Leaden Sieves -”. The dash at the end of the line is a hallmark of her poetic style, indicating a pause or interruption. In this case, it creates a sense of suspense. What exactly is sifting from the sieves?

Imagery and Metaphor

As the poem progresses, Dickinson’s use of imagery and metaphor becomes more and more apparent. She describes the snow as a “spectral swoon” and a “crystal veiled”. These phrases evoke a sense of mystery and otherworldliness, as though the snow is not of this world but something supernatural.

The metaphor of the snow as a “spectral swoon” is particularly interesting. A “swoon” is a faint, a loss of consciousness. In this context, it suggests that the snow is so overwhelming and all-encompassing that it has the power to make us lose ourselves, to fade into nothingness.

Dickinson also uses the image of a “feathered heart” to describe the snow. This is a beautiful metaphor that conveys both the lightness and the potential danger of the snow. Feathers are soft and delicate, but they can also be sharp and prickly. Similarly, the snow can be beautiful and peaceful, but it can also be treacherous and deadly.


So, what is the poem really about? As with most of Dickinson’s works, there is no one answer. However, there are a few themes that emerge throughout the poem.

One theme is the idea of transformation. The snow is constantly changing and shifting, from a “spectral swoon” to a “feathered heart” to a “crystal veiled”. This suggests that change is inevitable and natural, even in the midst of the cold, dark winter.

Another theme is the power of nature. The snow is described as “unbroken” and “untrimmed”, suggesting that it is wild and untamed. This is a common theme in Dickinson’s work – the idea that nature is a force to be reckoned with, and that we are powerless in the face of its majesty.

Finally, there is a sense of inevitability and acceptance in the poem. The snow “keeps falling, falling”, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. We must simply accept it and find beauty in its relentless, unyielding nature.


“It sifts from Leaden Sieves” is a beautiful poem that captures the essence of winter in all its mystery and majesty. Dickinson’s use of language and metaphor creates a sense of wonder and awe, while also conveying deeper themes of transformation, the power of nature, and acceptance.

As we look out on a snowy day, let us take a moment to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the snowflakes, and the way they sift down from the sky like a gentle, yet unstoppable force.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

It Sifts from Leaden Sieves: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers even today. One of her most famous poems is "It Sifts from Leaden Sieves," a short but powerful piece that explores the beauty and mystery of nature. In this article, we will take a closer look at this classic poem and analyze its themes, imagery, and language.

The poem begins with the line "It sifts from leaden sieves," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "leaden" suggests a heavy, oppressive feeling, while "sieves" implies a filtering or sifting process. This creates a sense of tension and anticipation, as if something important is about to happen.

The second line continues this theme, with the phrase "It powders all the wood." Here, we see the first example of the poem's vivid imagery. The idea of something "powdering" the wood suggests a gentle, almost magical process, as if the snow is transforming the world around it. This is further emphasized in the next line, which reads "It fills with alabaster wool the wrinkles of the road." The use of the word "alabaster" suggests a pure, white color, while "wool" implies a soft, fluffy texture. Together, these words create a vivid picture of a snow-covered road, with the snow filling in all the cracks and crevices.

As the poem continues, we see more examples of this vivid imagery. In the fourth line, Dickinson writes "It makes an even face of mountain and of hill." Here, we see the snow transforming the landscape, smoothing out the rough edges and creating a sense of unity. This is further emphasized in the next line, which reads "It heaves the grasses high." The use of the word "heaves" suggests a powerful, almost violent force, while "grasses" implies a delicate, natural beauty. Together, these words create a sense of awe and wonder at the power of nature.

The poem then takes a darker turn, with the line "It makes the beadles blaze." The use of the word "beadles" suggests a sense of authority or control, while "blaze" implies a sudden, intense burst of energy. This creates a sense of danger or unpredictability, as if the snow is capable of disrupting even the most stable and secure elements of society.

The final two lines of the poem bring everything together, with the phrase "It stings like sleet." Here, we see the snow taking on a more aggressive, almost painful quality. The use of the word "stings" suggests a sense of discomfort or even harm, while "sleet" implies a harsh, icy texture. This creates a sense of tension and conflict, as if the beauty and wonder of nature is always balanced by a sense of danger and unpredictability.

Overall, "It Sifts from Leaden Sieves" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the beauty and mystery of nature. Through its vivid imagery and language, it creates a sense of awe and wonder at the power of the natural world, while also acknowledging the dangers and unpredictability that come with it. As such, it remains a timeless piece of literature that continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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