Copperhead Snake, Agkistrodon contortrix
Photo: USFWS
Emily Dickinson's Nature Mysticism : A Photo Poetic Labyrinth
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Circuit II - (12) A Narrow Fellow in the Grass (J-0986) (F-1096)

(1) A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
(2) You may have met him — did you not
His notice sudden is.

(3) The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
(4) And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

(5) He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
(6) Yet when a boy, and barefoot,
I more than once, at noon,

(7) Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun
(8) When stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

(9) Several of nature's people    
I know, and they know me —
(10) I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

(11) But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
(12) Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

(Below: without editing or imposed lineation,
the original manuscript version for one of several
variations dickinson wrote for this poem.

(1) A narrow Fellow  
in the Grass
  Occasionally rides –
(2) You may have  
met Him?
Did you not
  His notice instant is –

(3) The Grass divides  
  as with a Comb –
A spotted Shaft
is seen,
(4) And then it closes  
at your feet
And opens
  further on –

(5) He likes a  
Boggy Acre –
A Floor too
  cool for Corn –
Yet when a
(6) Boy and Barefoot  
I more than
once at Noon

(7) Have passed,  
I thought, a
Whip Lash
Unbraiding in the
(8) When stooping  
to secure it
It wrinkled
  And was gone –

(9) Several of  
Nature's People
I know, and they
  know me –
(10) I feel for  
them a transport
  Of cordiality –

(11) But never met  
this Fellow
Attended, or
(12) Without a  
tighter breathing
And Zero at
the Bone – 

~ Emily Dickinson

Commentary adapted from Emily Dickinson's Poems & Letters
(1-2 comparative) "I think you would like the chestnut tree, I met
in my walk. It hit my notice suddenly — and I thought
the skies were in blossom." ~ (L #282)
(1-8) "When much in the woods as a little girl, I was told that the snake
would bite me, that I might pick a poisonous flower, or goblins kidnap me,
but I went along and met no one but angels." ~ (L #271)
(1-12 comparative) "There came a wind like a bugle — it quivered
through the grass and a green chill upon the heat
so ominous did pass." ~ (J-1585) (F-1638)
(2) "Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?
Should you think it breathed — and had you the leisure to tell me,
I should feel quick gratitude —" ~ (L #260)
(3-4) "A snake bite is a serious matter, and there can't be too much said,
or done about it . . . I love those little green ones that slide
around by your shoes in the grass - and make it rustle with their
elbows - they are rather my favorites on the whole." (L #31)
(7-8 comparative) "A bird sat careless on the fence — one gossipped in the
lane — on silver matters charmed a snake just winding round a stone."
(J-0606) (F-0523)
(8) (mushroom riddle) "As if it tarried always — and yet its whole career
is shorter than a snake's delay and fleeter than a tare."
~ (J-1298) (F-1350)
(8-10) "You said 'dark.' I know the butterfly — and the lizard —
and the orchis. Are not those your Countrymen?"
~ (L #268)
(9-12) Sweet is the swamp with its secrets, until we meet a snake; 'tis then
we sigh for houses, and our departure take." ~ (J-1740) (F-1780)
(10) "Transport is not urged —" ~ (L #368)
(10-12) "Space is as the Presence." ~ (L #378)
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Photo Credit: USFWS ~ Copperhead Snake (Agkistrodon
contortrix), native to Massachusetts