'A Burdock—clawed my Gown' by Emily Dickinson

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A Burdock—clawed my Gown—
Not Burdock's—blame—
But mine
Who went too near
The Burdock's Den

A Bog—affronts my shoe—
What else have Bogs—to do
The only Trade they know
The splashing Men!
Ah, pity—then!

'Tis Minnows can despise!
The Elephant's—calm eyes
Look further on!

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Burdock—clawed my Gown: A Deeper Interpretation

Emily Dickinson's poem, "A Burdock—clawed my Gown," is a short and simple poem that conceals a profound and complex meaning. This poem is widely regarded as one of Dickinson's finest works, and it is easy to see why. The poem is only six lines long, but it is packed with vivid imagery, metaphorical layers, and philosophical insights that demand a thorough critical analysis. In this essay, we will explore the various interpretations of this poem and discover the hidden meanings that lie beneath the surface.

A Summary of the Poem

Before diving into the deeper analysis of the poem, let us first summarize its surface meaning. The poem goes as follows:

A Burdock—clawed my Gown—

Not Burdock's—blame—

But mine—

Who went too near

The Burdock's Den—

-Emily Dickinson

At first glance, the poem seems to describe a simple incident where the speaker's gown is snagged by a burdock plant. However, upon closer inspection, the poem is full of cryptic symbolism and hidden metaphors.

The Garden as a Metaphor

One of the most prominent interpretations of this poem is that it serves as a metaphor for the garden of life. The speaker's gown represents the attire of human existence, and the burdock plant represents the thorns and obstacles that we encounter in our lives. The speaker's proximity to the burdock's den signifies the human tendency to venture too close to danger, as well as the allure of the unknown.

The poem can be seen as a cautionary tale, warning us to be mindful of the obstacles that we encounter in our lives. The burdock's clawing of the speaker's gown represents the consequences of our actions, while the speaker's admission of fault ("Not Burdock's—blame—/But mine—") symbolizes the importance of taking ownership of our mistakes.

The Burdock as a Symbol

The burdock plant, in particular, is a symbol that can be interpreted in various ways. Some critics suggest that its prickly appearance represents the harshness of reality, while others argue that its sticky seeds represent the bonds that tie us to our past.

Another interpretation suggests that the burdock represents the inevitability of death. In this view, the burdock's clawing of the speaker's gown represents the grasp of mortality, which is impossible to escape. This interpretation is supported by the fact that burdock is often associated with death and decay in traditional folklore.

The Speaker as a Persona

The speaker, too, serves as an enigmatic persona in the poem. The poem is written in the first person, but the speaker remains anonymous and mysterious. Some critics argue that the speaker's identity is irrelevant to the poem's meaning, while others suggest that the speaker represents Dickinson herself.

If we assume that the speaker represents Dickinson, then the poem takes on a more personal and autobiographical significance. Dickinson was known for her reclusive lifestyle and her tendency to avoid social interactions. The burdock's clawing of her gown, in this interpretation, represents the various obstacles that she encountered in her life, including her struggles with mental health and her rejection by the literary establishment.


In conclusion, "A Burdock—clawed my Gown" is a poem that invites various interpretations and readings. Its simple exterior hides a wealth of symbolic meaning and metaphorical layers that demand close attention and critical analysis. The poem serves as a warning against the dangers of human curiosity and the inevitability of our mortality. It is also a personal reflection on Dickinson's struggles with identity and acceptance. Ultimately, this poem remains a testament to Dickinson's unique poetic voice and her unparalleled ability to convey complex emotions and themes with simplicity and elegance.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

A Burdock—clawed my Gown: A Deep Dive into Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature. Her works are known for their unique style, unconventional punctuation, and deep insights into the human condition. One of her most famous poems, "A Burdock—clawed my Gown," is a perfect example of her poetic genius. In this article, we will take a deep dive into this classic poem, exploring its meaning, symbolism, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the line "A Burdock—clawed my Gown." At first glance, this line may seem simple and straightforward, but upon closer inspection, it reveals a lot about the poem's themes and symbolism. The burdock plant is known for its prickly burrs that cling to clothing and animal fur. In this context, the burdock represents something that is unwanted and difficult to remove. The fact that it has "clawed" the speaker's gown suggests that it has caused damage or left a mark. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the speaker's emotional or psychological state, which has been affected by something unwanted and difficult to shake off.

The second line of the poem, "Not Burdock's—blame!" further emphasizes this point. The speaker is not blaming the burdock for its actions, but rather acknowledging that it is simply doing what it does naturally. This could be seen as a commentary on the nature of life itself, which often brings us into contact with things that are difficult to deal with. The speaker is not angry or resentful towards the burdock, but rather accepting of its presence.

The third line of the poem, "Was it, blamed thee?" introduces a new element to the poem. The speaker is questioning whether or not someone else is to blame for the burdock's presence. This could be interpreted in a number of ways. Perhaps the speaker is blaming themselves for putting themselves in a situation where they came into contact with the burdock. Or maybe they are blaming someone else for bringing the burdock into their life. Either way, this line adds a layer of complexity to the poem, suggesting that there is more going on beneath the surface.

The fourth line of the poem, "Then much I questioned thee," further emphasizes the speaker's desire to understand the situation. They are not content to simply accept the burdock's presence, but rather want to know more about why it is there. This could be seen as a reflection of the speaker's desire for knowledge and understanding, which is a recurring theme in Dickinson's poetry.

The fifth line of the poem, "And blamed my shoe for thee," introduces a new element to the poem. The speaker is now blaming their shoe for the burdock's presence, rather than the burdock itself. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the speaker's tendency to blame external factors for their problems, rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. It could also be seen as a commentary on the human tendency to blame others for our problems, rather than accepting them as a natural part of life.

The sixth line of the poem, "But ah, thy scratch was worse than his," adds a new layer of meaning to the poem. The speaker is now acknowledging that the burdock's presence has caused them harm, but that the harm caused by the burdock is worse than the harm caused by their shoe. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the fact that sometimes the things that we blame for our problems are not actually the root cause of them. The burdock may have caused harm, but it is not the true source of the speaker's pain.

The final line of the poem, "Love, blame me not!" is a powerful conclusion to the poem. The speaker is now addressing someone else, perhaps a lover or a friend, and asking them not to blame them for the situation. This could be interpreted as a plea for understanding and acceptance, or as a reflection of the speaker's desire to be free from blame and guilt.

In terms of literary devices, "A Burdock—clawed my Gown" is a masterclass in Dickinson's unique style. The poem is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter. This allows Dickinson to experiment with language and structure, creating a poem that is both beautiful and unconventional. The poem also makes use of repetition, with the phrase "blamed thee" appearing twice in the poem. This repetition adds emphasis to the idea of blame, and reinforces the poem's themes of acceptance and understanding.

In conclusion, "A Burdock—clawed my Gown" is a classic poem that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. Through its use of symbolism, metaphor, and literary devices, Dickinson explores themes of acceptance, understanding, and the human tendency to blame others for our problems. The poem is a testament to Dickinson's poetic genius, and a reminder of the power of poetry to capture the complexities of the human experience.

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