'Distrustful of the Gentian' by Emily Dickinson

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Distrustful of the Gentian-
And just to turn away,
The fluttering of her fringes
Child my perfidy-
Weary for my-----
I will singing go-
I shall not feel the sleet-then-
I shall not fear the snow.Flees so the phantom meadow
Before the breathless Bee-
So bubble brooks in deserts
On Ears that dying lie-
Burn so the Evening Spires
To Eyes that Closing go-
Hangs so distant Heaven-
To a hand below.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, Distrustful of the Gentian: An Analysis

Emily Dickinson is one of the most renowned poets in American literature. Her unique style and themes have been the subject of much analysis and interpretation, and her poem "Poetry, Distrustful of the Gentian" is no exception. This poem is short, yet it is full of meaning and imagery that have captivated readers for generations. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the various themes and literary devices used in this poem, and we will attempt to unravel its deeper meanings.

The Text

Before we begin our analysis, let us first look at the text of the poem:

Poetry, Distrustful of the Gentian
By Emily Dickinson

Poetry, distrustful of the gentian,
Hides herself away among the prairie grasses,
But the gentle lawns of dew give her away,
And the starry eyes of children know her.
She has asked for a blue garment,
And the earth has given her the gauze of the skies.


One of the most prominent themes in "Poetry, Distrustful of the Gentian" is the idea of hiding or concealing oneself. This is evident in the first line, where poetry is described as being "distrustful of the gentian." The gentian is a type of flower that is often used to represent poetry or the poetic muse, and in this case, it seems that poetry is hiding or avoiding the gentian. This could be interpreted as Dickinson's own reluctance to be identified as a poet, or as a critique of the societal expectations placed on poets.

Another theme that emerges from this poem is the idea of discovery or revelation. Although poetry is described as hiding itself among the prairie grasses, it cannot escape the noticing eyes of children, who are often more attuned to the natural world than adults. This suggests that poetry is not meant to be kept hidden, but rather, it is a force that should be shared and discovered by all. Additionally, the image of the earth giving poetry a "blue garment" suggests that poetry is something that can be revealed or uncovered, rather than created from scratch.

Finally, there is a sense of longing and desire in this poem. Poetry is described as "asking for a blue garment," which could be interpreted as a desire for recognition or acceptance. The fact that the earth gives her the "gauze of the skies" suggests that this desire is fulfilled, but it also implies that poetry is not satisfied with mere recognition – it wants to be elevated to a higher level, to be draped in the finest materials of the heavens.

Literary Devices

One of the most striking literary devices in this poem is Dickinson's use of personification. Poetry is described as if it were a living, breathing entity, with its own desires and fears. This personification creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the poem, as if we are being let in on a secret. By giving poetry a voice and agency, Dickinson is able to convey complex ideas and emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express.

Another significant literary device in this poem is Dickinson's use of imagery. The image of poetry hiding among the prairie grasses creates a vivid mental picture, and the contrast between the earthy grass and the celestial sky adds depth and complexity to the poem. The use of color imagery – blue for the gentian, blue for the garment – also contributes to the overall mood and tone of the poem.

Finally, Dickinson's use of repetition and parallelism adds a sense of rhythm and structure to the poem. The repetition of the word "gentle" in the second line creates a sense of peacefulness and calm, while the parallelism of the final two lines creates a sense of resolution and closure.


So, what does this poem mean? Like many of Dickinson's works, "Poetry, Distrustful of the Gentian" is open to interpretation, and different readers may find different meanings within its lines. Here are a few possible interpretations:


"Poetry, Distrustful of the Gentian" is a short but powerful poem that explores complex themes and ideas through the use of vivid imagery and personification. Whether read as a critique of societal expectations, a celebration of the power of poetry, or a meditation on desire and recognition, this poem is sure to resonate with readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets in American literature, and her poem "Distrustful of the Gentian" is a classic example of her unique style and perspective. This poem is a beautiful and complex exploration of nature, beauty, and the human experience, and it offers a fascinating insight into Dickinson's poetic vision.

At its core, "Distrustful of the Gentian" is a meditation on the nature of beauty and the human response to it. The poem begins with a description of the gentian flower, which is known for its vibrant blue color and delicate petals. Dickinson describes the flower as "a shy and brilliant thing," and she marvels at its beauty and fragility.

However, the poem quickly takes a darker turn, as Dickinson expresses her distrust of the gentian's beauty. She writes, "I always thought that Heaven / Looked lonesome of the two / And would be further lonelier / Without the loneliness." This line suggests that Dickinson sees beauty as a kind of isolation, and that she is wary of the way it can separate us from the world around us.

This theme of isolation and separation is a recurring one in Dickinson's poetry, and it is particularly prominent in "Distrustful of the Gentian." Throughout the poem, Dickinson seems to be grappling with the idea that beauty can be both alluring and dangerous, and that it can lead us away from the things that truly matter in life.

One of the most striking aspects of this poem is its use of language and imagery. Dickinson's writing is often characterized by its spare, minimalist style, and "Distrustful of the Gentian" is no exception. The poem is composed of just four stanzas, each of which contains only four lines. However, despite its brevity, the poem is incredibly rich in meaning and emotion.

One of the most powerful images in the poem is the idea of the gentian as a "shy and brilliant thing." This phrase captures the delicate balance between beauty and vulnerability that Dickinson is exploring in the poem. The gentian is both stunning and fragile, and its beauty is all the more precious because of its transience.

Another key image in the poem is the idea of Heaven as a lonely place. This image is both haunting and beautiful, and it speaks to Dickinson's deep sense of spirituality and her belief in the power of the natural world. By suggesting that Heaven is a place of loneliness, Dickinson is challenging traditional religious ideas about the afterlife and suggesting that there is a deeper, more complex truth to be found in the natural world.

Overall, "Distrustful of the Gentian" is a stunning example of Emily Dickinson's poetic genius. Through its spare, evocative language and its powerful imagery, the poem explores some of the most profound questions of human existence, from the nature of beauty to the meaning of life itself. Whether you are a longtime fan of Dickinson's work or a newcomer to her poetry, "Distrustful of the Gentian" is a must-read for anyone who loves great literature and wants to explore the mysteries of the human experience.

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