Learn about METAPHORS in English with a poem by Emily Dickinson

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.

60 thoughts on “Learn about METAPHORS in English with a poem by Emily Dickinson

  1. Thank you, teacher! The Sunrise and Sunset are indeed as magical as it is ordinary. Loved this class and Emily Dickinson's lovely poem.

  2. Thank you good teacher I will follow you video I'm interested question and answer

  3. I`m watching you from Azerbaijan, dear professor. Your accent is very clear and i love it. Thanks for everything

  4. This was lovely Gill, thank you. I'm from Europe and learned speaking English by watching Discovery channel as a child (back then there weren't any subtitles) but even so, you thaught me a few words with this pleasant poem and I love the imagery and how you present it. 🙂

  5. Thankful gill , you interpreted this poem so beautiful and perfect 👌😘

  6. Delighted to see our savant and super posh teacher.This lesson is a unique one,because nobody does literature on this channel . Thanks Gill.

  7. Many thanks madam Gill
    I love your way of teaching and how you explain 😍
    You are fantastic 👍

  8. I've just recently joined the channel (I'm from Russia), and I wanted to say: Thank You Very Much! – I loved everything😊 immediately 😳.. – I've looked through the titles of published lessons – 💗 – I'm sure it is The Very help I needed to 'save' my knowledges – Thank You Very Much!👍🌟🙏 – it is such a Great support to have free access with the YouTube videos – 🙏🙏💕- Thank You!😊👍🙏

  9. In the poem, at the line, which is: 'the news like squirrels run' – those 'news' – could it means… 'the change of the picture'?.. I mean,… – the renew of the.. ladscape.. -?…

  10. Thank You Very Much! – Such an absolutely perfect explanations on the every line!.. ('each' or 'every'-?😞)… I've got real pleasure to listen to the absolutely perfect speech and I'm very pleased and grateful to learn so many nuances… – 'you' feel much much better when you realize, that you do understand the meaning of the number of symbols, which are, actually, the words of the foreign language ✌🚩…full of sense… – Thank You🙏💕

  11. Yes very good 👌 video your this video I am fast time watching

  12. İ like this learning method a lot,i hope we can see more poetry explanation

  13. Thank you, Gill. It's interesting. The way you speak makes me relax while learning.
    I hope you teach us Mother Goose rhymes in British accents. 🙂

  14. She should be honored as England's community aunt….what a sweet lady.

  15. 5:40 Exactly madam. The news is the sunrise. I appreciated so much this free lessons, miss Gill. Thank you very much.

  16. Dear Gill the color of amethyst is not blue but purple!
    Anyway thanks for your kindness

  17. Yes, it was very interesting Mrs Gill and I simple loved it as always.
    Thank you!

  18. Oh, Gill, you are so wonderfull! Regards from Buenos Aires <3 Thanks a lot for your class! Could I wrong, but I think one significate for the word "news" on the poem, could be the notices…is for this that Emily compare it whit squirrels? Thank so much

  19. Thank you very much Gill. You are wonderful teacher !!!

  20. Thanks it is fearful to dissect a poem and I love the poem being deconstructed for me.passively I then learnt.

  21. Thank you good teacher I will follow you video I'm interested question and answer

  22. I'm here watching the lesson with a soft smile in my face whilst staring at Gill's drawing💖

  23. Hi Gill! I have a question…. Could you explain how words that end with -ed are pronounced? For example the word "arranged" for me is impossible to pronounce! Thank you in advance! You are the best! I have learned a lot… Greetings from Italy! 💚⚪❤

  24. I might be wrong but I got the idea that the phrase 'litte yellow boys and girls' refers to the stars and the 'dominie in gray' refers to the moon.

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