'On my volcano grows the Grass' by Emily Dickinson

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The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson????1677On my volcano grows the Grass
A meditative spot-
An acre for a Bird to choose
Would be the General thought-How red the Fire rocks below-
How insecure the sod
Did I disclose
Would populate with awe my solitude.

Editor 1 Interpretation

On My Volcano Grows the Grass: A Critical Interpretation

Oh, Emily Dickinson, what a poet you were! You gave us such gems as "Because I could not stop for Death" and "Hope is the thing with feathers." But there is one poem that has always stood out to me, and that is "On My Volcano Grows the Grass."

This poem may not be as well-known as some of Dickinson's other works, but it is just as powerful and intriguing. At its core, "On My Volcano Grows the Grass" is a meditation on life and death, and the cyclical nature of existence.

The Volcano as a Metaphor

The first thing that strikes me about this poem is the use of the volcano as a metaphor. Dickinson writes, "On my volcano grows the Grass" (line 1). This line immediately creates a sense of tension and contrast. Here we have something as destructive and dangerous as a volcano, paired with something as peaceful and life-giving as grass.

But why a volcano? What does it represent in this poem? A volcano is a symbol of raw power and energy. It can destroy everything in its path, but it can also create new land and shape the landscape. In this sense, the volcano can be seen as a representation of life and death, creation and destruction.

The Grass as a Symbol of Life

The grass that grows on the volcano is a powerful symbol of life. Dickinson writes, "On my volcano grows the Grass --/ By leaps it may increase --/ Though molten fires dash furious --/ The Wild grasses of the East" (lines 1-4). The grass is able to grow and thrive despite the dangers and destruction of the volcano.

This can be seen as a metaphor for life itself. Life is constantly under threat from illness, accidents, and other dangers, but it still persists and thrives. The grass on the volcano may be wild and unpredictable, but it is still able to grow and flourish. In the same way, human life can be uncertain and unpredictable, but it is still able to thrive and create new life.

The Cyclical Nature of Existence

The final stanza of the poem is where Dickinson really drives home her message about the cyclical nature of existence. She writes, "So, in the little Orchard --/ Myself, and Summers were content --/ And though it was not Night, we knew --/ Which Daisies would be out of sight" (lines 9-12).

This stanza is full of contradictions and contrasts. The speaker is in an orchard, a place of growth and abundance, but she is also aware of the passing of time and the inevitability of death. She and Summers are content, but they also know that some of the daisies will soon be "out of sight."

This sense of cyclical change is what makes life so precious and valuable. We know that everything is constantly changing and evolving, and that nothing lasts forever. But that is also what makes life so beautiful and meaningful.


In "On My Volcano Grows the Grass," Dickinson has created a powerful meditation on life and death, growth and destruction. The use of the volcano as a metaphor creates a sense of tension and contrast, while the grass symbolizes the resilience and beauty of life.

The final stanza brings all of these themes together, emphasizing the cyclical nature of existence and the preciousness of life. This poem may not be as well-known as some of Dickinson's other works, but it is just as powerful and thought-provoking.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions and stir the soul. Emily Dickinson, one of the most renowned poets of all time, was a master of this art. Her poem "On my volcano grows the Grass" is a perfect example of her ability to create a vivid image in the reader's mind while also conveying a deeper meaning.

The poem begins with the line "On my volcano grows the Grass." This line immediately captures the reader's attention and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The image of grass growing on a volcano is both striking and unexpected. It creates a sense of tension and danger, as if something explosive could happen at any moment.

As the poem continues, Dickinson describes the grass in more detail. She writes, "Green above the lava, bright / Mingles with the lava's light." This description creates a sense of contrast between the lush green grass and the fiery lava. It also suggests that the grass is thriving in spite of the danger posed by the volcano.

The next stanza of the poem shifts the focus to the speaker. Dickinson writes, "Footprint of the oldest dancer / Can be seen upon the floor." This line suggests that the speaker is observing the volcano from a distance, perhaps from a safe vantage point. The reference to the "oldest dancer" adds a sense of history and tradition to the poem, as if the volcano has been a part of the landscape for centuries.

The final stanza of the poem brings the focus back to the grass. Dickinson writes, "Wealth of pearls that will not fail / Ripeness that will never stale." This description suggests that the grass is not only surviving on the volcano, but thriving. The use of the words "wealth" and "ripeness" create a sense of abundance and prosperity.

So what is the deeper meaning behind this poem? One interpretation is that it is a metaphor for the human spirit. Just as the grass is able to grow and thrive on a dangerous and unpredictable volcano, so too can the human spirit overcome adversity and flourish in difficult circumstances. The reference to the "oldest dancer" suggests that this resilience is not a new phenomenon, but something that has been a part of human nature for centuries.

Another interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the power of nature. The volcano represents the raw power of the natural world, while the grass represents the resilience of life. Despite the danger posed by the volcano, life continues to thrive and grow. This interpretation suggests that nature is not something to be feared or conquered, but something to be respected and admired.

In conclusion, "On my volcano grows the Grass" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that showcases Emily Dickinson's skill as a poet. Through vivid imagery and careful word choice, she creates a sense of tension and contrast that draws the reader in. The deeper meanings behind the poem are open to interpretation, but all suggest a sense of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry to evoke emotions and inspire the human spirit.

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