'September's Baccalaureate' by Emily Dickinson

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September's Baccalaureate
A combination is
Of Crickets-Crows-and Retrospects
And a dissembling BreezeThat hints without assuming-
An Innuendo sear
That makes the Heart put up its Fun
And turn Philosopher.

Editor 1 Interpretation

September's Baccalaureate: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Emily Dickinson is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets in American literature. Her works are characterized by their unconventional style, innovative use of language, and insightful exploration of the human experience. Among her most celebrated poems is "September's Baccalaureate," a poignant reflection on the passing of time and the inevitability of change. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of this remarkable work.


"September's Baccalaureate" is a meditation on the passage of time and the transience of life. The poem begins by describing the arrival of September, with its "yellow eye," and the changing of the seasons. The speaker notes that the "summer's empty room" is now filled with "autumn's violins," suggesting the transition from one phase of life to another. This theme is reinforced by the use of the word "baccalaureate," which traditionally refers to a religious service held before graduation, but is here used in a more general sense to connote the end of a period of learning or growth.

The poem also explores the theme of mortality and the acceptance of death. The speaker reflects on the passing of the year and the fading of the light, noting that "we should not mind so small a flower" as death in the midst of the larger cycle of life. The final stanza, with its stark imagery of the "frost's exquisite felicity" and the "eternity they fled," suggests that death is not to be feared but embraced as a natural part of the cycle of existence.


Dickinson's use of imagery in "September's Baccalaureate" is striking and evocative. The poem is suffused with images of nature, which serve both to illustrate the passing of time and to lend a sense of inevitability and continuity to the human experience. The opening lines, with their description of the "yellow eye" of September, immediately create a sense of change and transition. The line "The leaves unhooked themselves from trees" is a particularly memorable image, conveying both the physical act of the leaves falling from the trees and the emotional resonance of letting go and moving on.

The poem is also filled with depictions of light and darkness, with the fading light of the sun serving as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of life. The line "The light laughed out alone" is a particularly poignant image, suggesting both the beauty and the loneliness of existence.


Dickinson's use of language in "September's Baccalaureate" is both innovative and affecting. She employs a range of poetic techniques, including metaphor, personification, and alliteration, to create a sense of depth and resonance in the poem.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of personification. September is given a "yellow eye," while summer's room is described as "empty" and autumn's violins as "occupants." This technique serves to make the natural world an active participant in the cycle of life and death, reinforcing the poem's themes of change and continuity.

The poem also makes effective use of metaphor, particularly in the final stanza. The image of the "frost's exquisite felicity" is both beautiful and haunting, suggesting the ephemeral nature of existence and the inevitability of death. The phrase "the eternity they fled" is similarly powerful, conveying both the sense of finality and the possibility of something beyond.


"September's Baccalaureate" is a masterful poem that reveals Emily Dickinson's skill as a poet and her deep understanding of the human experience. Through its themes of change, mortality, and acceptance, the poem explores some of the most profound questions of existence. Its imagery is evocative and vivid, while its language is innovative and affecting. Ultimately, the poem reminds us of the beauty and the transience of life, and the importance of embracing each moment with gratitude and acceptance.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her poem "September's Baccalaureate" is a prime example of her unique style and ability to capture the essence of the natural world. In this poem, Dickinson explores the beauty and significance of the month of September, using vivid imagery and powerful language to convey her message.

The poem begins with the line "Nature, the gentlest mother," immediately setting the tone for the rest of the piece. Dickinson personifies nature as a nurturing and caring figure, one who is gentle and kind to all of her children. This image is reinforced throughout the poem, as Dickinson describes the various ways in which nature provides for and cares for her creations.

One of the most striking images in the poem is that of the "maternal hand" that "chafes her child." This line is a powerful metaphor for the way in which nature can be both gentle and harsh at the same time. Just as a mother might discipline her child in order to teach them a lesson, nature can also be tough on her creations in order to help them grow and develop.

As the poem continues, Dickinson describes the various sights and sounds of September, painting a vivid picture of the natural world. She describes the "orchard for a dome," the "boughs of fir" that "lowly sweep," and the "crickets sing[ing]." These images are all designed to evoke a sense of peace and tranquility, as if the reader is standing in the midst of a beautiful autumn landscape.

However, Dickinson also acknowledges the darker side of nature, the "frost upon the sill" and the "fading tints of summer's hill." These lines serve as a reminder that even in the midst of beauty and tranquility, there is always a sense of impermanence and change. Just as the leaves on the trees will eventually fall and the flowers will wither away, so too will all things in life eventually come to an end.

Despite this sense of impermanence, however, Dickinson ultimately leaves the reader with a sense of hope and optimism. She describes the "golden mystery" of September, a time when the natural world seems to be at its most vibrant and alive. This image serves as a reminder that even in the midst of change and uncertainty, there is always the possibility for new growth and renewal.

Overall, "September's Baccalaureate" is a powerful and evocative poem that captures the essence of the natural world in all its beauty and complexity. Through her use of vivid imagery and powerful language, Dickinson is able to convey a sense of both the gentleness and the harshness of nature, as well as the sense of hope and renewal that comes with the changing of the seasons. It is a poem that speaks to the human experience in a profound and meaningful way, and it is no wonder that it has become a classic of American literature.

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