in A Level, English Literature, Poetry

Here, you’ll find an analysis of the poem “A Murmur in the Trees – to note -” by Emily Dickinson, including a breakdown of the stanzas, an insight into the speaker + voice of the poem, and an exploration of the themes and deeper meanings. This is only a quick overview to help you get to grips with the poem; you can access a full in-depth breakdown of the poem below:

Thanks for reading! If you find this document useful, you can access our full poem analysis.

For full access to our Emily Dickinson Poetry course, click here.

For a full list of our English Language and Literature courses, click here.

Link to the full poem to read along with the analysis.

STORY/SUMMARY

Stanza 1: I heard a murmuring sound in the trees – you must note that it wasn’t loud enough to possibly be the wind – after that, I saw a star in the trees too – it wasn’t far enough away to look for, like a star in the sky might be, but also it wasn’t close enough for me to be able to find it. 

Stanza 2: Light cast a long, long yellow stripe on the lawn, and I heard a busy noise that sounded like feet, not as loud as our own feet sound to us, but softer, more elegant, and more sweet.

Stanza 3: It was the rushing home of little men (elves or faeries), they were going home to their hidden houses – If I told people about this, and more things that I saw, nobody would believe it. 

Stanza 4: I could tell you too about the Robins I saw in the trundle bed, how many I spied there, they tried to hide their wings in the nightgowns that were stored inside the bed, but they weren’t able to hide fully from me.

 
Stanza 5: But then, I promised never to tell anyone about these magical things that I saw – so how could I break my word and tell you now? So you carry on as you were, going the way that you originally were travelling – and I’ll go my own way too, without being afraid that you’d lose your path?

SPEAKER/VOICE


Set at night, the poem has a mysterious atmosphere around it – where the world that the poet describes is highly ambiguous and difficult to fully understand. She has impressions of something existing beyond the normal everyday ‘reality’ which we perceive: she hears noises that sound like people muttering to one another, and little feet walking across the lawn, she sees a light in the forest. Her interpretation of these events are spiritual or mystical – but the speaker also encourages us to feel comfortable in a state of uncertainty – she suggests towards the end of the poem that she knows more knowledge that she is communicating to us, but that she promised not to tell. This creates a kind of childish, secretive voice that reminds us of the way in which children share or hide one anothers’ secrets – perhaps the speaker feels that sometimes there is more excitement and enjoyment in accepting that things are not fully explainable than always fixating on facts and proof. The conclusion of the poem is that there are different ways to interpret its meaning: “So you go your Way – and I’ll go mine / No fear you’ll miss the Road.” The speaker firstly feels that she is caught between her desire to communicate the excitement of the experience to us, and the fear that we won’t believe her or that we’ll anger the spirits or faeries that she promised to keep a secret. The verb ‘miss’ is particularly perplexing, as it may mean ‘Don’t be scared to sometimes travel off the road that has been laid out for you’, as in don’t be afraid to venture into unexplored territory even if it doesn’t fully feel safe or make sense; it could otherwise mean ‘If you go on the path that suits you, being a seeker of truth and fact, and I go on my other path, being a seeker of mystery and secrets, then you have no right to be afraid of missing out on what I manage to experience by pushing the limits of my knowledge and perception of the world.’ Therefore, the poem may be a message about learning to either live with a limited view of reality or accept that there are things that exist beyond our understanding of concrete facts and proof.

THEMES

TASK: For each of the themes below, make a mind map and explore quotations that relate to it. What, in your opinion, is Dickinson’s final message or statement about each theme? 
  • Magic 
  • Mythical creatures 
  • Nature 
  • Creativity 
  • Insight 
  • Communication 
  • Mischief 
  • Facts and truth
  • Spirituality and mysticism

Thanks for reading! If you found this useful, you can access a full analysis of the poem here. This includes:

  • Vocabulary
  • Key Quotations
  • Language Feature Analysis
  • Form and Structure Analysis
  • Context
  • Attitudes + Messages

For full access to our Emily Dickinson Poetry course, click here.

For a full list of our English Language and Literature courses, click here.

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