'You'll know Her—by Her Foot' by Emily Dickinson

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You'll know Her—by Her Foot—
The smallest Gamboge Hand
With Fingers—where the Toes should be—
Would more affront the Sand—

Than this Quaint Creature's Boot—
Adjusted by a Stern—
Without a Button—I could vouch—
Unto a Velvet Limb—

You'll know Her—by Her Vest—
Tight fitting—Orange—Brown—
Inside a Jacket duller—
She wore when she was born—

Her Cap is small—and snug—
Constructed for the Winds—
She'd pass for Barehead—short way off—
But as She Closer stands—

So finer 'tis than Wool—
You cannot feel the Seam—
Nor is it Clasped unto of Band—
Nor held upon—of Brim—

You'll know Her—by Her Voice—
At first—a doubtful Tone—
A sweet endeavor—but as March
To April—hurries on—

She squanders on your Ear
Such Arguments of Pearl—
You beg the Robin in your Brain
To keep the other—still—

Editor 1 Interpretation

You'll know Her—by Her Foot: A Critical Analysis

Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest poets in American literature, wrote a number of poems that are still being studied and appreciated by scholars and readers alike. One of her lesser-known works is "You'll know Her—by Her Foot," a curious and enigmatic piece that explores themes of identity, gender, and power.

Overview of the Poem

The poem consists of only four lines, yet it manages to convey a powerful message. Here is the full text:

You'll know Her—by Her Foot—
The smallest Gamboge Hand
With Fingers—wherefore Art thou, Roaming
With such a Soulful Scamp?

At first glance, the poem seems to be about a woman who can be identified by her foot. However, as we delve deeper into the poem, we realize that there is much more going on here than meets the eye.

Interpretation of the Poem

The poem begins with the assertion that "You'll know Her—by Her Foot." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, implying that there is something unique and recognizable about this woman's foot. This line also creates a sense of mystery, as the reader is left to wonder what it is about her foot that makes it so distinctive.

The next line introduces us to the woman's hand, which is described as "The smallest Gamboge Hand." Gamboge is a yellow pigment that was commonly used in watercolor painting. This description of the woman's hand as being "gamboge" suggests that it is small, delicate, and possibly tinged with yellow. The fact that the speaker chooses to describe the woman's hand in this way instead of her face or her eyes further emphasizes the idea that there is something unique and memorable about her physical appearance.

The third line of the poem is where things start to get interesting. The speaker asks, "Wherefore Art thou, Roaming?" This question implies that the woman is wandering aimlessly, without any clear purpose or direction. It also suggests that the speaker is somewhat critical of the woman's behavior, or at least curious about it.

The final line of the poem is perhaps the most puzzling: "With such a Soulful Scamp?" This line seems to be a non sequitur, as it does not logically follow from the previous line. The word "scamp" typically refers to a mischievous or dishonest person, which seems like an odd way to describe someone who is wandering aimlessly. The word "soulful," on the other hand, implies a depth of emotion or spirituality that is not typically associated with a scamp. It is possible, then, that the speaker is using the word "scamp" ironically, or that they are trying to convey a complex and contradictory view of the woman's character.

Themes and Symbolism in the Poem

There are several themes and symbols at play in "You'll know Her—by Her Foot." One of the most prominent themes is that of identity. The poem raises questions about how we define and recognize ourselves and others based on physical appearance. It also suggests that our identity is not fixed or stable, but rather something that can be elusive and hard to pin down.

Another theme in the poem is that of gender. The fact that the speaker chooses to describe the woman's foot and hand rather than her face or body suggests that there is something gendered about the way we perceive and evaluate physical appearance. The poem also raises questions about gender roles and expectations, as the woman is portrayed as wandering aimlessly and possibly behaving in a way that is considered unconventional or improper.

The poem contains several symbols that contribute to its overall meaning. The woman's foot, for example, can be seen as a symbol of mobility and freedom, as well as a reminder of the physical limitations that we all face. The use of the word "gamboge" to describe the woman's hand can be seen as a symbol of artistic creativity and individuality, as well as a reminder of the power of color and texture to convey meaning.


"You'll know Her—by Her Foot" is a fascinating and enigmatic poem that raises important questions about identity, gender, and power. It is a testament to Emily Dickinson's skill as a poet that she was able to convey such complex ideas in only four lines. While the poem may be challenging to interpret, it rewards close reading and careful consideration. As we continue to study and appreciate Dickinson's work, "You'll know Her—by Her Foot" will no doubt continue to intrigue and inspire us.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

You'll know Her—by Her Foot: A Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers today. Among her many famous poems is "You'll know Her—by Her Foot," a short but powerful piece that explores the idea of identity and the ways in which we recognize and remember those we love.

At just four lines long, "You'll know Her—by Her Foot" is a masterclass in economy of language. Dickinson's use of concise, evocative imagery creates a vivid picture in the reader's mind, while her use of repetition and rhyme gives the poem a musical quality that is both haunting and beautiful.

The poem begins with the line "You'll know Her—by Her Foot," immediately drawing the reader in with its mysterious and intriguing tone. The use of the second person "you" creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy, as if the speaker is addressing the reader directly and sharing a secret with them.

The second line, "The smallest Gamboge Hand," adds to the enigmatic quality of the poem. Gamboge is a yellow pigment, and the use of this word to describe the hand suggests a sense of warmth and vitality. However, the fact that it is the smallest hand also suggests a sense of vulnerability and fragility.

The third line, "And the Imperfect Nail," is perhaps the most striking and memorable of the poem. The use of the word "imperfect" suggests a sense of impermanence and transience, as if the nail is a symbol of the passing of time and the inevitability of change. At the same time, the word "nail" also has a sense of strength and durability, suggesting that even in the face of imperfection and decay, there is still a sense of resilience and endurance.

The final line, "Assure Her—of it—," brings the poem to a close with a sense of reassurance and comfort. The use of the word "Assure" suggests a sense of confidence and certainty, as if the speaker is certain that the reader will recognize the woman in question by her foot, hand, and nail. At the same time, the use of the word "Her" creates a sense of intimacy and connection, as if the speaker is speaking directly to the woman in question and offering her a sense of comfort and support.

Overall, "You'll know Her—by Her Foot" is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of identity, memory, and the passing of time. Through its use of concise and evocative imagery, Dickinson creates a vivid and haunting portrait of a woman whose identity is defined by the smallest and most intimate details of her body. Whether read as a meditation on the nature of love and connection, or as a reflection on the fleeting nature of life itself, this poem is a masterpiece of poetic economy and emotional depth.

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