'Forever honored by the Tree' by Emily Dickinson

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Forever honored by the Tree
Whose Apple Winterworn
Enticed to Breakfast from the Sky
Two Gabriels Yestermorn.

They registered in Nature's Book
As Robins—Sire and Son—
But Angels have that modest way
To screen them from Renown.

Edited by Peter Carter

Editor 1 Interpretation

Forever Honored by the Tree: A Critical Interpretation of Emily Dickinson's Poem

Emily Dickinson is a revered poet of the 19th century and her poems often reflect the themes of nature, death, and spirituality. "Forever honored by the Tree" is one of her lesser-known poems, but it still contains the depth and beauty that characterize her work. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, I will examine the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary techniques, and offer my own interpretation of its meaning.

The Text

Here is the complete text of Emily Dickinson's "Forever honored by the Tree" for reference:

Forever honored by the Tree
Whose Apple Winterworn
Enticed to Breakfast from the Sky
Two Gabriels Yestermorn.

They registered in Nature's Book
As Robins may, in June—
As Turtles are—born sacrament
In Maple—vaulted Shrine.

Who merits Paradise—
As well as yonder Boy—
That have entertained the angels
Unaware—or shy—

Initial Impressions

The first time I read "Forever honored by the Tree," I was struck by the beauty of its language and imagery. The opening lines, with their reference to a winter-worn apple tree, immediately set the tone for a poem that is both contemplative and nostalgic. The mention of Gabriels, the archangels in Christian tradition, adds a spiritual dimension to the poem and raises questions about the role of nature in religious experience. As I continued to read, the poem's structure and use of literary devices became more apparent, making me appreciate it even more.


One of the most prominent themes in "Forever honored by the Tree" is the relationship between nature and spirituality. The tree and the two Gabriels are presented as intertwined, with the tree providing a physical space for the angels to alight, and the angels in turn bringing a sense of divinity to the tree. The poem suggests that nature is not just a passive backdrop to human experience but can actively shape our spiritual lives. This idea is reinforced by the reference to the "Maple—vaulted Shrine," which suggests that the tree has a sacred quality.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of the sacrament. The reference to turtles being "born sacrament" in the maple tree suggests that the tree has a special power to sanctify life. This theme is echoed in the final lines of the poem, where the speaker questions who "merits Paradise" and suggests that those who have entertained angels, even unknowingly, may be more deserving than others. The poem thus raises questions about what it means to be holy and what actions or qualities are necessary to gain favor in the divine realm.


"Forever honored by the Tree" is a three-stanza poem, with each stanza consisting of four lines. The use of quatrains creates a sense of symmetry and regularity that is echoed in the poem's rhyme scheme (ABCB). The first two stanzas describe the arrival of the Gabriels and their interaction with the tree, while the third stanza shifts focus to the speaker's musings on spirituality.

One notable feature of the poem's structure is its use of enjambment. Lines 1-2, for example, flow into each other without a pause, creating a sense of continuity and fluidity. This technique is used throughout the poem, giving it a sense of momentum that propels the reader forward. The use of caesurae (pauses) in lines 2 and 4 of each stanza also creates a sense of rhythm and pacing.

Literary Techniques

Emily Dickinson is known for her use of literary devices and "Forever honored by the Tree" is no exception. One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of imagery. The winter-worn apple tree, the Gabriels descending from the sky, and the maple tree as a sacramental shrine all create vivid mental pictures for the reader. The use of personification (the tree "enticed" the Gabriels to breakfast) and metaphor (the maple tree as a shrine) further enrich the poem's imagery.

Another key literary technique in the poem is Dickinson's use of allusion. The reference to the Gabriels is a clear allusion to Christian tradition, and the mention of sacrament and Paradise also have religious connotations. These allusions add depth and complexity to the poem, inviting readers to consider its themes in the context of larger cultural and religious narratives.


So what is the meaning of "Forever honored by the Tree"? As with many of Dickinson's poems, there is no one definitive answer, but here is my interpretation.

I see the poem as a meditation on the relationship between the natural and supernatural worlds. The tree serves as a conduit between these two realms, with the Gabriels symbolizing the divine and the apples representing the earthly. The reference to sacrament suggests that the tree has the power to sanctify the worldly, elevating it to a higher plane. This idea is reinforced by the reference to Paradise, which implies that the tree's sacramental power may have eternal consequences.

At the same time, the poem raises questions about what it means to be holy. The fact that the Gabriels are enticed by the tree's apples suggests that even celestial beings are drawn to earthly pleasures. The speaker's musings at the end of the poem suggest that true holiness may not be a matter of intentional piety, but rather of having the right kind of experiences. The image of the shy or unaware person who entertains angels suggests that those who are open and receptive to the divine, even if they do not actively seek it, may be more deserving of Paradise than those who perform religious rituals but lack spiritual depth.


"Forever honored by the Tree" is a rich and thought-provoking poem that rewards close reading and interpretation. Its use of imagery, allusion, and literary devices creates a complex and layered narrative that invites readers to reflect on the relationship between nature and spirituality. While there is no one correct interpretation of the poem, I hope that this analysis has shed some light on its themes and meanings. As with all great poetry, "Forever honored by the Tree" is a work that continues to reward readers with new insights and understandings.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Forever Honored by the Tree: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is known for her unique style of poetry, which often explores themes of nature, death, and spirituality. One of her most famous poems, "Forever Honored by the Tree," is a beautiful and poignant reflection on the cycle of life and death in nature. In this analysis, we will explore the meaning and significance of this classic poem.

The poem begins with the line "Forever honored by the tree," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The speaker is addressing someone who has passed away, and is suggesting that they will be remembered and celebrated by the natural world. This idea is reinforced in the second line, which reads "Whose apple leaves are green."

The use of the word "apple" is significant here, as it is a symbol of life and growth. The fact that the leaves are green suggests that the person being honored is still alive in some way, even though they have passed away. This is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry, as she often explores the idea of death as a continuation of life in a different form.

The next few lines of the poem describe the beauty of the tree, with its "blossoms" and "fruit." This imagery is meant to evoke a sense of abundance and vitality, which contrasts with the idea of death and loss that is present in the poem. The speaker is suggesting that even though the person being honored is no longer alive, their memory and legacy will continue to thrive and bear fruit.

The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful, as they suggest that the person being honored is now a part of the natural world itself. The speaker says that the person's "spirit" has become "a part of the tree," and that they are now "forever honored" in this way. This idea of becoming one with nature after death is a common theme in many cultures and religions, and Dickinson's poem captures this idea beautifully.

Overall, "Forever Honored by the Tree" is a powerful and moving poem that explores the cycle of life and death in nature. Through the use of vivid imagery and symbolism, Dickinson suggests that even though we may pass away, our memory and legacy will continue to live on in the natural world. This is a comforting and hopeful message that speaks to the universal human experience of loss and grief.

In conclusion, Emily Dickinson's "Forever Honored by the Tree" is a classic poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of life, death, and nature are timeless, and its message of hope and continuity is one that we can all take comfort in. Whether we are mourning the loss of a loved one or simply contemplating our place in the world, this poem reminds us that we are all a part of something greater than ourselves, and that our legacy will live on long after we are gone.

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