“A Route of Evanescence”- a poem by Emily Dickinson

A Route of Evanescence
With a revolving Wheel –
A Resonance of Emerald –
A Rush of Cochineal –
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head –
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning’s Ride –

On the face of it , Emily Dickinson’s nature poem is tough to crack. But don’t you imagine it is deliberately so or esoteric enough for the poetry novices. Suffice it to know it is about a humming bird and everything falls into place. Let us try to peel it off layer by layer.

We come down to imagery. It is madam’s beautiful images that do most of the talking. Only we need to fire our imagination a bit .

A Route of Evanescence :

Imagine the speed with which a humming bird approaches a flower. It is as though the route it charted disappears as thin air as your eyes follow its flight and you hardly find a trace of the route. Evanescence means a gradual fading away. A route of fading away? The speed with which it approaches the flower is so high that the route appears as if fading away.

We have no humming birds in our country but we can imagine it’s speed from our native Sun bird, probably a distant cousin of the humming bird.

Revolving wheel:

One wonders where in the world a wheel comes, speaking of a bird flapping wings  . But it strikes me that a humming bird flaps wings 60 times per second, a speed at which it resembles a fast revolving wheel. In the revolving wheel the spokes become blurred to sight and the wheel becomes just a blurry circle. A humming bird flaps its wings to keep itself balanced in the air before a flower to draw its nectar. The flapping is so fast that the bird becomes a blurry circle in the air.

A resonance of emerald

Interesting use of an auditory metaphor to describe an essentially visual experience. Emerald is the green of the bird that strikes the eye  as in a “resonance” ,that is an echo of the color green. The bird flaps its wings extremely fast to stay balanced before the flower and its image to the eye appears  as fuzzy green.

A rush of Cochineal

Cochineal refers to “crimson red’ of the bird, the word denoting a particular dye derived from an insect. The word may be an obscure one but the use of the particular shade of color suggests the poet’s deep knowledge of color. But more striking is the use of the word “rush” to suggest a quick movement of the bird as it appears to the eye.

Every blossom on the bush…

“Every blossom adjusts its tumbled head” is a beautiful description of the way the flowers bend at the onrush of wind the bird’s fast moving wings generate. The flower bends its tumbled head and re-adjusts it to its normal position.A beautiful extended metaphor.

The mail from Tunis

From the flower’s stationary point of view , the sudden rushing in of the bird is indeed a big surprise .May be it is a mail from a far off Tunisia. It is as though one suddenly gets a mail from an unexpected far off place.

If indeed the bird is a visitor from a far off place like Tunis, wouldn’t it have taken a long time to reach ,across such a vast distance? Oh, that is alright and it was just an easy morning ride.