'The Judge is like the Owl' by Emily Dickinson

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The Judge is like the Owl-
I've heard my Father tell-
And Owls do build in Oaks-
So here's an Amber Sill-That slanted in my Path-
When going to the Barn-
And if it serve You for a House-
Itself is not in vain-About the price-'tis small-
I only ask a Tune
At Midnight-Let the Owl select
His favorite Refrain.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Judge is like the Owl: A Critical Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poem

Emily Dickinson was a prolific poet whose works were only discovered after her death. Her poetry is noted for its unconventional style and its focus on themes such as death, nature, and spirituality. One of her most famous poems is "The Judge is like the Owl," which has been the subject of much literary criticism and interpretation. In this essay, we will examine the poem's structure, themes, and symbolism, and offer our own interpretation of its message.


"The Judge is like the Owl" is a short poem consisting of just two stanzas. Each stanza has four lines, and the poem has a consistent rhyme scheme of ABAB. The poem's simplicity makes it easy to read and understand, but it also adds to the poem's overall impact. By using simple language and structure, the poem conveys a sense of clarity and directness that is missing from more complex works.


Like much of Dickinson's poetry, "The Judge is like the Owl" deals with themes related to death and the natural world. The poem's central theme is the idea that nature is a powerful force that is indifferent to human existence. The owl, with its ability to see in the dark and its association with death, is a symbol of this power.

The poem also deals with the theme of judgment. The judge, who is compared to the owl, is a symbol of the human desire to judge and control nature. However, the poem suggests that this desire is ultimately futile, as nature will always remain beyond our control.


"The Judge is like the Owl" makes use of several symbols to convey its theme. The most obvious symbol is the owl, which represents the power and indifference of nature. The poem also uses the image of the judge to symbolize human attempts to control and judge nature. The fact that the judge is "like" the owl suggests that he is not as powerful or in control as he thinks he is.

Another important symbol in the poem is the dark. The owl is associated with the darkness, which represents the unknown and the mysterious. This darkness is a symbol of the power of nature, which is beyond human understanding.


"The Judge is like the Owl" is a complex and multi-layered poem that can be interpreted in many different ways. Our interpretation is that the poem is a commentary on the limitations of human power and the futility of trying to control nature. The judge, who represents human attempts to judge and control nature, is ultimately powerless in the face of the owl's power and indifference.

The poem also suggests that there is a certain beauty and mystery in the power of nature. The darkness and mystery associated with the owl and the natural world are not something to be feared or controlled, but rather something to be appreciated and admired.

Overall, "The Judge is like the Owl" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that speaks to the fundamental questions of human existence. Through its use of symbolism and themes related to nature and death, the poem offers a unique perspective on the limitations of human power and the beauty of the natural world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Judge is like the Owl: A Masterpiece of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, one of the most renowned poets of the 19th century, has left an indelible mark on the world of literature with her unique style and thought-provoking themes. Among her many works, "The Judge is like the Owl" stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of human nature and the complexities of life. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the poem's meaning, structure, and literary devices to unravel its hidden depths and appreciate its beauty.

The poem begins with a striking comparison between the judge and the owl, two seemingly unrelated entities. Dickinson writes, "The Judge is like the Owl- / I've heard my Father tell-". This opening line immediately captures the reader's attention and sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "like" suggests that the judge and the owl share some common traits or characteristics, but the reader is left to ponder what those might be.

As the poem progresses, Dickinson provides several clues that help us understand the comparison. She writes, "And Owls do build in Oaks- / So here's an Amber Sill- / That slanted in my Path-". The image of the owl building its nest in an oak tree is juxtaposed with the "Amber Sill" that slants in the speaker's path. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for the judge's position of power and authority, which obstructs the speaker's path and casts a shadow over their life.

The next stanza further develops this idea, as Dickinson writes, " 'Twould keep my Spirit warm- / And comfortable- all Day- / To know that I could slip- / Out of my Silver Cage-". Here, the speaker longs to escape the confines of their "Silver Cage," which could represent the restrictions placed upon them by society or the law. The judge, in this context, is seen as the one who enforces these restrictions and keeps the speaker trapped. The image of the owl, with its ability to fly freely and escape danger, serves as a contrast to the speaker's situation.

The third stanza introduces a new element to the poem, as Dickinson writes, "And fly, and frisk, and plunge- / Beyond the Dip of Day-". The use of the word "frisk" suggests a sense of playfulness and joy, which is in stark contrast to the seriousness and solemnity associated with the judge. The image of the owl plunging beyond the "Dip of Day" could be interpreted as a metaphor for the judge's limited perspective, as he is bound by the laws and regulations of society. The owl, on the other hand, is free to explore and discover new things beyond the boundaries of human knowledge.

The final stanza of the poem brings all these ideas together, as Dickinson writes, "What Rapture- by the Name- / When I shall meet with him- / And 'Scarf him in a Boa'- / And how obliging 'Negotiate'!" The use of the word "Rapture" suggests a sense of excitement and anticipation, as the speaker looks forward to meeting the judge. The image of "Scarf him in a Boa" could be interpreted as a metaphor for the speaker's desire to overpower the judge and take control of their own life. The word "Negotiate" suggests a sense of compromise and cooperation, which could be seen as a way for the speaker to find a middle ground with the judge and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

In terms of structure, "The Judge is like the Owl" is a four-stanza poem with an ABCB rhyme scheme. The use of rhyme adds a musical quality to the poem and helps to unify its various themes and ideas. The poem is also notable for its use of enjambment, where lines flow into each other without a pause. This creates a sense of continuity and fluidity, which is in keeping with the poem's themes of freedom and escape.

In terms of literary devices, "The Judge is like the Owl" is rich in imagery and metaphor. The use of the owl as a metaphor for the judge is particularly effective, as it allows Dickinson to explore the complexities of human nature and the limitations of authority. The use of the "Silver Cage" metaphor is also effective, as it captures the sense of confinement and restriction that the speaker feels. The poem is also notable for its use of personification, where the owl is given human-like qualities such as building a nest and flying freely.

In conclusion, "The Judge is like the Owl" is a masterpiece of Emily Dickinson's poetry that captures the essence of human nature and the complexities of life. Through its use of metaphor, imagery, and rhyme, the poem explores the themes of power, authority, freedom, and escape. The poem's structure and literary devices add to its beauty and depth, making it a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

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