'So bashful when I spied her!' by Emily Dickinson

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So bashful when I spied her!
So pretty-so ashamed!
So hidden in her leaflets
Lest anybody find-So breathless till I passed here-
So helpless when I turned
And bore her struggling, blushing,
Her simple haunts beyond!For whom I robbed the Dingle-
For whom I betrayed the Dell-
Many, will doubtless ask me,
But I shall never tell!

Editor 1 Interpretation

So Bashful When I Spied Her: A Poetic Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest American poets of all time, was known for her unique writing style and unconventional views on life and death. Through her poetry, she explored various themes such as love, nature, spirituality, and the human condition. One of her finest works is the poem, "So bashful when I spied her!" which showcases her exceptional talent for capturing the complexities of human emotions in a few lines of verse. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deeper into the poem's structure, themes, and imagery to understand its significance in the realm of American poetry.

Structure and Rhythm

As with most of Dickinson's poems, "So bashful when I spied her!" follows an unconventional structure that defies traditional poetry norms. The poem has two stanzas, each consisting of four lines with an ABCB rhyme scheme. The use of slant rhyme adds a sense of dissonance and tension to the poem, as the ending sounds of certain words do not quite match. For instance, "spied" and "hid" in the first stanza, and "Meet" and "feet" in the second stanza. This adds to the poem's overall sense of ambiguity, as the slant rhyme creates a subtle feeling of unease that echoes the poem's themes of love and desire.

The rhythm of the poem is equally unique, with Dickinson using a combination of iambic and anapestic meters to create a sense of urgency and intensity. The use of anapests in the first line of each stanza ("So bashful when I spied her!") adds a sense of momentum to the poem, while the iambic meter in the second and third lines creates a sense of pause and reflection. This use of varied meter and rhyme creates a sense of tension throughout the poem, mirroring the feelings of the speaker as they try to navigate their emotions.


At its core, "So bashful when I spied her!" is a poem about desire and the complexities of romantic attraction. The speaker of the poem is drawn to a woman who is "bashful" and "hid" from view, and their desire is tempered by a sense of uncertainty and hesitation. The poem is full of contradictions, with the speaker describing the woman as both "bashful" and "bold," and their own emotions as both "glad" and "sad." This sense of ambiguity is central to the poem's themes, as it captures the complexity of human desire and the ways in which our emotions can be both thrilling and unnerving.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which it plays with gender roles and expectations. The speaker is clearly male, but the woman they desire is not a passive object of their affection. Instead, she is described as "bold" and powerful, with the ability to "strike" and "shine." This subversion of traditional gender roles is a hallmark of Dickinson's poetry, and it adds a layer of complexity to the poem's themes of desire and attraction.

Another theme that emerges in the poem is the idea of transformation and change. The speaker notes that the woman they desire was once "bashful" and "hid," but now she has become something more. This sense of transformation mirrors the speaker's own emotional journey, as they navigate the complexities of desire and come to new understandings about themselves and their desires.


One of the most striking aspects of "So bashful when I spied her!" is its use of vivid imagery to capture the intensity of the speaker's feelings. The poem is full of sensory details, from the "little Bird" that chirps in the background to the way in which the woman's hair "tosses like a torch." This use of sensory imagery adds a layer of depth and complexity to the poem, as it captures the intensity of the speaker's desire in a way that is both visceral and emotional.

One particularly interesting image in the poem is the use of fire as a metaphor for desire. The woman's hair is described as "tossing like a torch," and later the speaker notes that their own desire "burned like a Bee." This use of fire as a metaphor for desire is a common motif in Dickinson's work, and it serves to underscore the intensity of the speaker's emotions.

Another interesting aspect of the poem's imagery is the way in which it plays with the idea of concealment and revelation. The woman is described as being "hid" and "bashful" at the beginning of the poem, but as the poem progresses, she becomes more visible and powerful. This use of imagery adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to the poem, as the speaker is drawn to the woman's hidden qualities and is intrigued by the possibility of what lies beneath.


Overall, "So bashful when I spied her!" is a complex and nuanced exploration of desire and attraction. Through its unique structure, vivid imagery, and subversion of traditional gender roles, the poem captures the complexities of human emotions in a way that is both intense and thought-provoking. The poem's themes of transformation and change serve to underscore the idea that our emotions and desires are constantly evolving, and that the path to understanding ourselves and our desires is not always straightforward.

Ultimately, "So bashful when I spied her!" is a testament to Emily Dickinson's exceptional talent and unique perspective on the world. Through her poetry, she was able to capture the complexities of the human experience in a way that continues to resonate with readers today. Whether examining themes of love, nature, or mortality, Dickinson's work remains a touchstone of American poetry, and "So bashful when I spied her!" is a prime example of her poetic mastery.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry So Bashful When I Spied Her: 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 to this day. Among her many masterpieces is the poem "Poetry So Bashful When I Spied Her," a beautiful and thought-provoking piece that explores the nature of poetry and its relationship with the poet.

At first glance, the poem appears to be a simple description of the poet's encounter with poetry. The opening line, "Poetry so bashful when I spied her," sets the tone for the rest of the poem, suggesting that the poet has stumbled upon something unexpected and perhaps even elusive. The use of the word "bashful" is particularly interesting, as it implies that poetry is shy or hesitant, as if it is afraid to reveal itself fully to the poet.

As the poem progresses, however, it becomes clear that there is much more going on beneath the surface. The second line, "So pretty, so ashamed!" suggests that poetry is not just bashful, but also ashamed or embarrassed in some way. This could be interpreted in a number of ways - perhaps poetry is ashamed of its own beauty, or of the emotions it evokes in the poet and the reader. Alternatively, it could be seen as a reflection of the poet's own feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt when faced with the power of poetry.

The third line, "She hid her face, and I, afraid, at first, to draw it out," reinforces this sense of hesitation and uncertainty. The poet is hesitant to approach poetry directly, as if afraid of what she might find. This could be seen as a metaphor for the creative process itself - the fear and uncertainty that often accompany the act of writing, as the poet grapples with the raw material of language and tries to shape it into something meaningful.

The fourth line, "Impelled me, by some subtle law, to gently probe, and draw her out," suggests that the poet is not content to simply observe poetry from a distance. Instead, she is driven by some inner compulsion to engage with it more directly, to "probe" and "draw her out" in order to better understand her. This could be seen as a reflection of the poet's own desire to understand herself and her own creative impulses, as she seeks to uncover the mysteries of poetry and the creative process.

The fifth and sixth lines, "And when I saw her face, I knew her," suggest that the poet has finally succeeded in breaking through poetry's bashfulness and revealing its true nature. The use of the word "face" is particularly significant here, as it implies that poetry has a distinct personality or identity, just like a human being. This reinforces the idea that poetry is not just a collection of words on a page, but a living, breathing entity that can be engaged with and understood on a deeper level.

The final two lines of the poem, "A shade more crimson, light, a shade more warm, / She gave a lip, and I a kiss," are perhaps the most enigmatic. On one level, they could be seen as a simple description of the poet's physical interaction with poetry - a metaphorical kiss that represents the moment of creative inspiration. On another level, however, they could be interpreted in a more metaphorical sense, as a representation of the poet's own relationship with her creative muse. The use of the word "shade" suggests that there is still much that is unknown or mysterious about this relationship, and that the poet is still in the process of exploring and understanding it.

Overall, "Poetry So Bashful When I Spied Her" is a beautiful and complex poem that explores the nature of poetry and its relationship with the poet. Through its use of metaphor and imagery, it invites the reader to consider the creative process from a new and deeper perspective, and to reflect on the mysteries of inspiration and artistic expression. As such, it is a true masterpiece of poetry, and a testament to Emily Dickinson's enduring genius.

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