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Hello I’m Gill from engVid, and today’s lesson is a poem When I did a previous poem called: “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear, people said: “Oh, please give us some more poems”, so here is one which I hope you enjoy Okay, so it’s a poem by a woman called Emily Dickinson, and she was American And she lived from 1830 to 1886, and she lived in a place called Amherst in Massachusetts in the eastern On the eastern side of America; New England Okay And she She was the kind of person who likes to stay at home most of the time; she didn’t go out much She stayed in her own room, I think writing poetry most of the time; maybe writing letters as well But she wrote a lot of poetry; and not much of it was published in her lifetime, but it was found after she died, and then it was all published I think she only published one or two poems in her lifetime Okay So, here is the first half of a poem by Emily Dickinson And it’s very simple, really It’s not a difficult poem There are some words which may be unfamiliar, but I’ll explain them as we go along Okay So, here we are, so the poem begins: “I’ll tell you how the sun rose, – A ribbon at a time The steeples swam in amethyst, The news like squirrels ran.” Okay, so there may be a few words there that you’re not familiar with, so let’s have a look So, she’s talking to somebody; maybe the person who’s reading the poem, and she’s telling them: “I’ll tell you how the sun rose” She’s going to describe what it looked like when the sun came up in the morning Okay And it was “a ribbon at a time” So, when you see the sun and the clouds in the sky sometimes, you have sort of lines in the sky that look They could look Be like ribbons; pieces of silk, ribbons that people put in their hair and so on So, the way it looked as the sun rose, there were coloured lines in the sky-okay-like that So, a ribbon at a time as the sun came up, these lines appeared Okay The steeples… “steeples” are on a building; they’re a pointed thing, like this So, it’s often usually a church building where you have a pointed It’s called a “spire” as well A “steeple” or a “spire”, so that’s a steeple – that pointed bit So, the steeples, there’s more than one So, if she’s looking out of her bedroom window, seeing the town and seeing the sun coming up, she’s seeing all the buildings as well in the town There may be several church buildings with a pointed spire or steeple So, the steeple swam… swimming So, it sounds like It sounds strange because it’s more metaphorical; that’s why it’s poetry It’s not literally true, but the metaphor “The steeples swam in amethyst” So, “amethyst” is a deep blue colour So, there’s a sort of blue around the steeples in the sky; a deep blue colour So, it’s as if the steeples are swimming; they’re almost moving against the sky because of the effects of the light as the sun comes up

So, the steeples swam It’s almost as if they’re in water; swimming in water So, the blue is like water, as well as being the blue of the sky Okay “The news like squirrels ran” “News” we don’t know What? What news? Oh, the news that the sun is rising? Could it be that? Sometimes in a poem it’s not exactly clear what’s happening; what’s going on What is the news? The news that the sun is rising, perhaps; that a new day is beginning It’s getting light So, people start to wake up, and animals and birds start to wake up “Ah, it’s a new day.” That may be what the news is And a “squirrel” is a little animal Oo, I’ll try and draw one The main thing is that it has a long tail, like that So, little squirrels, they can go up a tree, and think things like that, you know So: “The news like squirrels ran” The news ran like squirrels The way squirrels run – very quickly So, the news spreads very quickly that it’s a new day; everybody wakes up and thinks: “Oh, the new day is starting.” You soon notice when the sun rises Okay Next verse So, these are called “verses” where you have a break in between Each one is called a verse Or another word for it is if you’re being really particular about your The words you’re using, you’d call it a “stanza” – that’s a more professional word “Stanza” Each section is called a “stanza” with a gap in between “Stanza” or “verse” Okay So, second verse, second stanza – so, what happens next? “The hills untied their bonnets, The bobolinks begun Then I said softly to myself,” Quotation marks: “‘That must have been the sun!'” So, it’s very sort of conversational in style; very normal language “Ah, it’s got light Ah, that must have been the sun coming up.” So, anyway, let’s go back to this The hills, so the hills She can see hills in the distance, I suppose, through her window; the hills So, hills don’t usually wear bonnets or hats A “bonnet” is a hat It’s a particular type of hat which people used to wear in this period – the 19th century And it’s kind of curved like that, and it has ribbons that tie under the chin So that’s the person’s face, and they have a bonnet which they wear, and it ties under the chin with a ribbon And so, the idea of a ribbon is coming back, but it’s not mentioned But people know that bonnets have ribbons So: “The hills untied their bonnets”, so it means they untied; they opened up, they loosened the ribbons, and probably took the bonnets off You don’t just untie your bonnet; you usually, if you’re wearing one, you untie it, then you take it off completely; which usually meant in those days you’ve gone to visit somebody, you wore the bonnet out in the street, you then arrived at their house, you go in, and if you’re going to sit down and have a nice social chat, you untie your bonnet and take it off, and then you can relax and have a proper conversation, and stay for an hour

or more So, this is quite a strong idea that the hills untied their bonnets; that something’s happening So, I think the idea is partly the light behind the hills It’s getting lighter, so it looks as if they had dark bonnets on, and then they’ve taken them off and the light is different now; you can see the hills more easily in the light Okay “The hills untied their bonnets, The bobolinks begun” So, a “bobolink” is a bird Okay It’s a kind of mostly-black bird, but it has white markings on it as well, and that’s the male bird I think the female bird is more sort of brown and beige So, that’s the “bobolink” And it’s a bird which we don’t have in the UK, so I had to look it up on the internet, and I had to find a little video on YouTube to see what a bobolink looked like and what it sounded like; to hear what it sounded like But they make a lot of chattering noise So, when she says: “The bobolinks begun”, it means they started chattering and making a noise, and singing, and probably going off to find food; insects and things, because that’s what birds do when the sun rises They all make a lot of noise and go off to find food So: “The bobolinks begun” I think they’re called “bobolink” because it’s sort of a little bit like the sound that they make Okay, and also the thing with the bobolink is it’s She’s from America, and the bobolink is a native bird of North America, but in the winter the bobolink migrates south to South America So, if you’re in that area of the world, you may know what the bobolink looks like; you may have seen them Okay That’s a bobolink, then So: “The bobolinks begun Then I said softly to myself, ‘That must have been the sun!'” So, the sun, it’s a sort of almost casual remark: “Oh, that must have been the sun Huh.” You know, it happens every day, the sun rises, so But it’s very important that it does; I don’t know what we would do if the sun didn’t rise So, we take it for granted You know, we expect it to happen every day, but it’s very important So… okay, so that’s the first half of the poem, all about the sun rising I hope you have enjoyed the little images, and the references to birds and animals, and how it looks visually because poetry often creates a picture in your head from the way the language is being used And it’s very simple, really, and there’s very little rhyming; there’s just “begun” and “sun”, really, in this half of the poem And there’s a bit more rhyme to come So, let’s move on to the second half of the poem Okay, so let’s have a look at the second half of the poem So, we started with the sun rising, and now the sun is setting So, there’s no There’s nothing about the middle of the day in the poem; it’s just sunrise, sunset What happened in between – just another day So, let’s read the third verse, the third stanza: “But how he set, I know not There seemed a purple stile Which little yellow boys and girls Were climbing all the while.” Okay, so we’ve heard how the sun rose “I’ll tell you how the sun rose”, she begins, but how he set – “he” meaning the sun, so

she’s using “he”; not: “how it set” She’s calling the sun “he” “How the sun set, I don’t know I know not” She didn’t Well, she does because she then goes on to tell us, so she does know, really But this is what she saw when the sun was setting: “There seemed” It’s less clear probably because it’s getting darker when the sun is setting, so you can’t see so much, but what she did see: “There seemed a purple stile” So, a “stile” I’ll try to draw one It’s If you have, in the country between different fields, you get a fence and there might be a hedge on either side; something growing on either side, and then there’s a wooden fence But you may want to climb over it, so what people do, they put a piece of wood across partway up, like that, so that you can step onto the piece of wood and step over to the other side and get down into the next field So, that’s called a “stile” Whoops So, that’s called a “stile”, okay Something that helps you jump… not jump over a fence Climb over a fence Okay So, that’s the impression she got So, when you think of the ribbons when the sun was rising, this is a little bit similar That Well, she doesn’t say what colour the ribbons were, but she said here this is purple So, the dark sort of purple colour in the sky often in the evening, and maybe some lines again But: “There seemed a purple stile” in the distance, on the horizon, “Which little yellow boys and girls were climbing all the while” So they’re climbing over the stile; little sort of spots of yellow that look like children Okay So, which is a bit strange, but that’s the impression; some sort of effect with all the colours at sunset So, little children, little yellow dots in the distance Okay “Till”-meaning “until”, “until”-when they reached the other side”, the other side of the stile, further away into the next field “A dominie in gray Put gently up the evening bars, And led the flock away.” Okay So, the children, if they are children, go over the stile to the other side; it’s getting darker and darker And then: “A dominie in gray” – this is like a churchman wearing gray A “dominie” is like a sort of religious leader, and he’s wearing gray, I think because the light is fading now; the light is going as the sun sets The purple is quite dark already, and then gray – you don’t see so much colour at night; everything is gray, or black, or white So, dominie in gray, wearing gray And in British English, we spell “grey” with an “e”, but this is the American spelling with an “a” Okay So, he’s wearing gray “Put gently up the evening bars”, so it could be these bars, here It’s almost like the bars of a prison; makes you think of bars, whichever way they’re going, so it’s like saying sort of closing down for the night, really “Put gently up the evening bars”, but it’s gentle; it’s a very nice feeling “And led the flock away”

The children, boys and girls, are like a flock and a “flock” is the word for sheep So, it’s like this man is like a shepherd, looking after a flock of sheep, which has slight sort of religious connections because people, boys and girls, adults as well, are sometimes in the church called a flock; the people who are being looked after by the minister, the church minister So, there’s something a bit religious about the poem at the end, here, as well as having steeples early on, which are church buildings So But it’s a very gentle feeling “…gently and led the flock away” There’s this idea that this man who is like a shepherd is really looking after the children, taking care of them, making sure they’re okay So it’s a very nice feeling at the end of the poem So And then in terms of poetry with rhyming, we’ve got “stile” and “while”, and we’ve got “gray”, “away”, so there’s a little bit of rhyming, but not every line Because sometimes if you rhyme every line, it can be a little bit too monotonous, a bit too much, and you start to hear the rhyme and not look at what the poem is about, so it can be distracting to have too much rhyme in a poem So this is just enough, I think, for the subject So So, there we are That’s a description of a sunrise and a sunset, and what it looked like to Emily Dickinson, who must have spent a lot of time sitting in her bedroom, looking out of the window So, she was very interested in nature and the view that she could see through the window So, okay, I hope that’s been interesting for you, to look at another poem and to sort of I hope I’ve shown how poetry doesn’t have to be very scary or very difficult to be able to understand and enjoy it So, if you’d like to go to the website: www.engvid.com, there’s a quiz there for you to test your knowledge of this poem, or of poetry in general And thanks for watching, and see you again soon Bye for now

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