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 A Bird Came down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

Self -Assessment

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About the poem

  • The poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’ was written in 1862 by Emily Dickinson, and it was published in ‘Second Collection of Dickinson’s Poem’ in 1891 after the poet’s death.

  • The theme of the poem revolves around various activities of a bird , which not only depicts the bird’s struggle and bravery to survive on the earth but also portrays how Nature is.

  • It consists of five stanzas , in which each stanza contains four lines. It is written in iambic trimeter.

  • It is written in a lucid language.

Substance and Analysis

The poet saw a bird in her walkway, but the bird did not know about her presence. He bit an angleworm, broke it into two pieces and ate it. Then he drank a dew from grass which is nearby to him. He jumped with slight movement, went aside so that a beetle could pass. He moved his eyes quickly , looked at his surroundings. His eyes seemed to be frightening beads. He moved his head which was as soft as velvet. He was alert as if he was in danger. Then the poet provided him a piece of bread, but the bird opened his feathers and flew. The bird used his feathers to fly as a boatman uses the oars of the boat to move on, but his movement of flying in the sky is more graceful than the movement of the boat in the ocean. His movement is so graceful that it did not make a seam. Even his movement is more graceful and glamourous than the butterflies which leap at the riverbank in the afternoon in such a way that they seemed to be swimming. 

The poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’ portrays Nature and existence of life on the earth. It depicts life of every entity and his struggle to survive on the earth trough various activities of a bird. Here the bird ate an angle-worm to live, eating it was his need for survival ,but he snatched life from an angle-worm to survive. The bird’s activities proves that we have to be violent for our survival, again we co-operate with others so that many like us can survive. On the other hand the bird co-operate with beetle by hopping sideways so that he could pass as humans need to co-operate with others to live on the earth and let others live. The bird became afraid of his surroundings , as he had fear of losing his life by others. We also need to be alert about our surroundings as we face many harmful consequences due to others. When a crumb is offered to the bird, he rejected to eat it because he got his food in Nature. It also portrays how Nature acts as mother to all creatures providing what her children need. 


Short Type Questions

a)What did the eyes of the bird look like?

Ans: The bird glanced rapidly all around. His rapid eyes sparkled with fright and looked like beads.

b)What does the bird symbolize in a bird came down the walk?

Ans: As a natural creature frightened by the speaker into flying away, the bird becomes an emblem for the quick, lively, ungraspable wild essence that distances nature from the human beings who desire to tame it.

c)What did the bird do as it came down the walk?

Ans:  When the bird came down the walk he caught an angle-worm in his beak, cut it halves and ate it raw.

d)How did the bird satisfy its thirst?

Ans:  The bird drank a dew drop from the blade of grass to satisfy its thirst.

e)Why did the bird hop sideways? How does this contrast with what has been said in first stanza ?

Ans: The bird hopped sideways to let a beetle crawl pass. In the second stanza the bird showed his manners and etiquettes. This contrast with what has been said in first stanza . In the first stanza the bird cuts an angle-worm into halves and ate it. This represents the cruel nature of the bird. But maybe he did so to satisfy his hunger.

f)Why have eyes been called ‘rapid eyes and head ‘velvet head’ in third stanza ?

Ans: The poet was deeply impressed by the beauty of the bird. The bird was alert and afraid of predators. He checked the surroundings very keenly with his beads like eyes. The poet called the head ‘velvet head’ as his head was beautiful, smooth and bright like velvet.

g)What did the bird do to let the beetle pass?

Ans: The poet then observes how the bird allows a beetle to pass by hopping sidewise to the wall. This line shows that it is not all violence in the natural world. Cooperation also exists in good measure.

h)What did the poet offer the bird? Did it take it?

Ans:  The poet offered a crumb to the bird. No, the bird didn’t take the crumb from the poet.

i)What has the flight of the bird has been compared to? When do butterflies leap without splash?

Ans: The poet compared the flight of the bird with rowing of ship noiselessly in the ocean and also with the soundless flight of butterflies. The butterflies leap without a splash when it takes off from the “Banks of Noon” in the heat of the day. The bird also jumps and moves splash less through the air.

j)When did the bird unroll his feather?

Ans: When the poet offered a crumb very cautiously to the bird, he unrolled his feathers and softly rowed himself home.

The poem A Bird Came down the Walk is a beautiful evocation of the gap that exists between the human and the natural world, and even when there is the scope of interaction in a non-hostile environment, the distance between the two cannot be completely removed.

k)What did the butterflies do in the afternoon?

Ans: The poet  conjures up an image of butterflies flying around at noon. Their movement is very fluid and smooth. The poet imagines these butterflies swimming without a splash.

l) Why does the poet call the grass convenient?

Ans: After the meal, the bird sought some water. There was some grass, likely on the side of the walkway. So the poet calls the grass convenient.

m)Who gave a crumb to the bird ?

Ans: The poet offered a crumb to the bird.

n)How did the poet compare the bird’s movement to the oars?

Ans: To the poet’s eyes the oar-like wings are passing through an ocean (the sky) seamlessly, i.e., without causing even a ripple on the surface of this metaphorical ocean. Thus unlike oars that visibly cut through the water, the action of the wings are too smooth for the observer to notice any such action.

Long Type Questions

a)How was the bird’s flight?


Describe the concluding stanza of the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’.


Describe the imagery used in the last stanza of the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’.

Ans: In the concluding stanza of the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’, Emily Dickinson uses a series of incomparable images to describe the flight of the bird as well as the beauty of the nature. She compares the wings to oars that row the bird home. The bird is compared to a boat and the sky to the ocean .According to her, the motion of the bird’s wings is more silent than oars cut through the water surface.

The poet then conjures up an image of butterflies flying in the banks of a river at noon. She realizes the movement of the butterflies is fluid, smooth and without a splash, but the flight of the bird is softer than the plash less swimming of the butterflies.

b)Describe the activities of the bird in the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’.


What does the poem reflect about the nature of the bird in the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’?

Ans: In the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’, Emily Dickinson portrays the nature of a bird through presenting many activities of him. A bird came down the walkway, ate an angleworm after biting it into two halves and drank a dew from a convenient grass. Then he hopped sidewise to make the beetle pass, looked at his surroundings with rapid eyes, and stirred his head. At that moment the poet offered a crumb to him, but without accepting crumb he spread his little wings to fly away.

Throughout the poem various characters of the same bird in different circumstances depict the nature of the bird beautifully. The bird shows violence while biting an angleworm, he co-operates with beetle, and gets afraid of human beings and flies away with the help of his wings as an independent fellow.

c) ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’ is a poem about the poet’s interaction with a bird. Justify the statement with close reference to the text.

Ans: In the poem ‘A Bird Came down the Walk’, Emily Dickinson saw a bird coming down the walkway of her home, and then observed his activities .She offered a crumb as his meal to him, but he did not accept the crumb , and spread his wings to fly away.

When the poet observed the bird , she interfered with him. On the other hand, when the bird was given a crumb, he got afraid of the poet and flew away. Both the poet and the bird impacted each other throughout the entire poem. So, the poet’s interaction with a bird is beautifully presented in this poem.

d) “Nature is self-sufficient ” -How does Dickinson convey this through the poem?

Ans: Nature looks after all her creatures as our beloved mother looks after her all children with infinite affection and care. So all the creatures of nature can live a peaceful life in their world without human intrusion, but human beings can not understand the truth of nature, and interfere with it which is a source of inspiration for everyone.

In the poem ‘A Bird Came Down the Walk’, the poetess observes a bird on the path and tries to feed him a crumb. As soon as She offers the crumb , the bird spreads his little wings and flies off. The bird’s rejection of food proves that nature does not allow human beings to interfere with any of her creatures, no matter it is a bird or a beetle as everyone is treated equally in the lap of nature.

In this poem the poetess conveys her deep appreciation for nature and explores the notion that nature is self-sufficient, and human beings’ futile attempt to tame the nature should be stopped.


1. Answer the following questions in a complete sentence.

a) What was unknown to the bird?

b)Where did the bird drink the dew from?

c)Name two notable works of Emily Dickinson.

 d)What do you mean by “velvet head”?

e) How did the bird react after rejecting the crumb?

f)What did the poetess observe in the poem?

g)What did the bird do to let a beetle pass?

h) What is the poet describing in the last stanza of the poem?

i)What did the bird do to make the way for the beetle?

j) “Than oars divide the ocean”-What is being referred to here?
k)What did the bird eat raw in the poem?

2. Answer any two of the following questions in about 80 words :

a)Why did the bird come down the walk? What did he do there?

b)Why did the bird refuse to take food from the speaker? How did he look at its surrounding?

c)Who was frightened? Why was he frightened? What did he do after being frightened?

d) Write in brief about the bird in the poem — ‘A Bird Came Down the Walk.’

e) Nature is self-sufficient — How does Dickinson convey this through the poem?

f) What are the implications of the various images used in the poem?

g) ‘A Bird Came Down the Walk’ is a poem about the poet’s interaction with a bird. Justify the statement with close reference to the text.

h)How does the poet present the bird as the predator and the prey in the poem ‘A Bird Came Down the Walk’?

 Textual Grammar

   3. Do as directed:

 a) I offered him a crumb. He unrolled his feathers . (Combine into complex)

 b) A bird came down the walk. He did not know I saw. (Combine into complex)

 c) He bit an angle-worm in halves. He ate the fellow, raw. (Combine into Simple sentence)

 d) The poet said, “He glanced with rapid eyes.” (Change the mode of narration)

 e) Like one in danger, cautious, I offers  him a crumb.(Correct the error)

 f) He did not know I saw.(Split into two sentences)

 g)He glanced with rapid eyes that hurried all abroad. (Split into two sentences)

 h)They look like frighten beads. (Correct the error)


♦bit-hit with the help of teeth, ♦angle-worm-earthworm which is used as bait by fishermen, ♦dew- natural drops of water on the grass in the morning, ♦hopped-small jump, ♦sidewise-towards one side, ♦glanced-looked at, ♦stirred-moved, ♦cautious-careful, ♦unrolled-opened, ♦seam-mark of joining two things together, ♦Leap-jump, ♦plashless-without disturbance