Emily Elizabeth Dickinson
(December 10, 1830 - May 15, 1886)
Though very few poems were published before her death in 1886, she is considered one of the great American poets. Though most of her poetry was written in the middle of the 19th century, she has come to be regarded as a predecessor of the Modernist movement in poetry. Her writing, of which critic Thomas Bailey Aldrich wrote, “…was deeply tinged by the mysticism of William Blake, and strongly influenced by the mannerism of Ralph Waldo Emerson,” did not conform to the poetical or grammatical rules of the period. With the advent of Modernist poetry, Emily Dickinson’s status in the poetic canon changed from an eccentric loner who did not understand style to a bold stylist who carved her own path in American poetry.
Dickinson is using metaphor of a small bird to carry her point that hope stays alive within us despite all of our troubles and, like a small bird that sings in the face of the strongest wind and most powerful storm, hope never asks for anything from us--it is just there to help us when we need it.
This poem is about the inner life of the speaker. Many poets write about their lover, some write about nature or war. Dickinson almost always has her speakers contemplating themselves in some way. Here the speaker possesses an uncanny insight into the workings of her inner self, and is able to see the interplay of experience, emotion, and intellect with incredible clarity.