'The wind drew off' by Emily Dickinson

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The wind drew off
Like hungry dogs
Defeated of a bone—
Through fissures in
Volcanic cloud
The yellow lightning shone—
The trees held up
Their mangled limbs
Like animals in pain—
When Nature falls upon herself
Beware an Austrian.

Edited by Peter Carter

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Wind drew off: An Interpretation and Criticism

Is there anything quite as hauntingly beautiful as the poetry of Emily Dickinson? The way she captures the delicate nuances of life, death, and everything in between in just a few words is truly something to behold. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll be taking a closer look at one of her lesser-known works, "The Wind drew off."

At first glance, this poem might seem simple - just a description of a windstorm passing by. But as we dig deeper, we'll find that there's much more going on beneath the surface.

The Poem

Let's start by taking a look at the poem itself:

The Wind drew off Like hungry dogs Defeated of a bone -- Through fissures in Volcanic cloud The yellow lightning shone --

Imagine standing in the middle of a field as a powerful windstorm blows past you. You can feel the wind tugging at your clothes, pulling at your hair, as if it's trying to drag you along with it. That's the feeling that Dickinson captures in the first two lines of this poem - "The Wind drew off / Like hungry dogs."

The wind is personified here as a pack of dogs, all eager to get their teeth into something. But what are they after? What is the "bone" they've been defeated of? We don't know for sure, but it's clear that the wind is frustrated and restless.

The next two lines take us in a completely different direction - "Through fissures in Volcanic cloud / The yellow lightning shone." Suddenly, we're transported to a completely different landscape. Here, the wind is blowing through a volcanic cloud, and we see flashes of lightning illuminating the darkness.

Dickinson's use of color here is particularly striking. The yellow lightning seems almost otherworldly, like something from a dream. And yet, it's the wind that's drawing our attention to it, as if it's showing us something we wouldn't have noticed otherwise.


So what does it all mean? As with much of Dickinson's poetry, we can't say for sure. But there are a few different ways we could interpret this poem.

One possibility is that Dickinson is using the wind as a metaphor for the creative process. Just as the wind is restless and frustrated, so too are many artists when they're struggling to create something new. And just as the wind can reveal hidden beauty (like the lightning in the volcanic cloud), so too can the creative process bring to light things that were previously concealed.

Another possibility is that Dickinson is using this poem to comment on the power of nature. The wind, like a pack of dogs, is uncontrollable and unpredictable. It can be both beautiful and destructive, as we see in the flashes of lightning. Perhaps Dickinson is reminding us that we are at the mercy of the natural world, and that we should never take our safety or security for granted.

Finally, it's worth noting that this poem is particularly notable for its brevity. At just four lines long, it's a testament to Dickinson's ability to convey deep, complex emotions in just a few words. Perhaps she's reminding us that sometimes less is more - that we don't need to say everything we're thinking or feeling in order to make an impact.


Of course, no literary interpretation is complete without a bit of criticism. While "The Wind drew off" is undoubtedly a beautiful and thought-provoking poem, it's not without its flaws.

One possible criticism is that the poem is too vague. While it's true that Dickinson's poetry often leaves a lot up to interpretation, some readers might find this particular poem frustratingly unclear. What is the wind after, exactly? And what is the significance of the volcanic cloud?

Another criticism might be that the poem is too simple. While Dickinson's use of language is always powerful and evocative, some readers might feel that this particular poem lacks the depth and complexity of some of her other works. It's possible that, in trying to convey too much with too few words, Dickinson has left out some important details that would have made the poem more effective.

Finally, some readers might take issue with the poem's somewhat pessimistic tone. By describing the wind as "defeated" and "hungry," Dickinson is painting a picture of a world that's full of frustration and struggle. While this is undoubtedly an important aspect of life, some readers might prefer poetry that takes a more optimistic view of the world.


All in all, "The Wind drew off" is a fascinating and thought-provoking poem that rewards close reading and careful consideration. Whether you interpret it as a comment on the creative process, a meditation on the power of nature, or something else entirely, there's no denying the emotional depth and beauty of Dickinson's words. And while it might not be perfect, it's a testament to Dickinson's skill as a poet that she can say so much with just a few short lines.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Wind Drew Off: A Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, the renowned American poet, is known for her unique style of writing that often explores themes of nature, death, and spirituality. One of her most celebrated works is "The Wind Drew Off," a poem that captures the essence of the natural world and the power of the wind. In this analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of this classic piece of literature.

The poem begins with the line, "The Wind drew off," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The wind is personified as a force that has the ability to move and shift things around, and this is evident in the next line, "Like hungry dogs, did they chase the leaves." Here, Dickinson compares the wind to dogs, which are known for their ability to chase and catch prey. The leaves, on the other hand, are portrayed as helpless victims of the wind's power.

As the poem progresses, Dickinson continues to use vivid imagery to describe the wind's actions. She writes, "Took out their little knives, / And slit a thousand tongues." This line is particularly striking because it suggests that the wind is not only powerful but also cruel. The "little knives" represent the sharp edges of the wind that can cut through anything in its path. The "thousand tongues" refer to the rustling sound of the leaves as they are blown around by the wind.

The next stanza of the poem shifts the focus to the natural world around us. Dickinson writes, "But heavens that spurn the clover / And the frisky dust." Here, she is referring to the sky and the earth, which are both part of the natural world. The use of the word "spurn" suggests that the heavens are rejecting the clover and the dust, which could be interpreted as a metaphor for the rejection of the natural world by humans.

The final stanza of the poem brings the focus back to the wind. Dickinson writes, "The hills untied their bonnets, / The bobolinks begun." The hills are personified as wearing bonnets, which are typically worn by women. The use of this imagery suggests that the hills are feminine and delicate, and the wind has the power to undo their bonnets. The bobolinks, on the other hand, are birds that are known for their beautiful songs. The fact that they "begin" suggests that they were waiting for the wind to start before they could sing.

Overall, "The Wind Drew Off" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of the natural world. Dickinson's use of vivid imagery and personification brings the wind to life, and the poem's themes of power and cruelty are both thought-provoking and haunting. The poem's final lines leave the reader with a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of the natural world, and the power of the wind to shape and transform it.

In conclusion, "The Wind Drew Off" is a masterpiece of American literature that continues to captivate readers to this day. Emily Dickinson's unique style of writing and her ability to capture the essence of the natural world make this poem a timeless classic. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, this poem is a must-read for anyone who wants to experience the power and wonder of the wind.

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