The poems on this list vary in their thematic emphasis and consideration of a butterfly’s thoughts and feelings. The majority look at the creature from a sympathetic or thoughtful view, considering what the creature does every day and how it might communicate with birds, flowers, and other insects.
Best Poems about Butterflies
- 1 Milkweed by Helen Hunt Jackson
- 2 To A Butterfly by William Wordsworth
- 3 The Butterfly by Pavel Friedman
- 4 Two Butterflies went out at Noon— by Emily Dickinson
- 5 The Butterfly’s Day by Emily Dickinson
- 6 Blue-Butterfly Day by Robert Frost
- 7 The Butterfly by Alice Freeman Palmer
- 8 Ode to a Butterfly by Thomas Wentworth Higginson
- 9 After Wings by Sarah Piatt
- 10 The Butterfly and the Bee by William Lisle Bowles
- 11 A Butterfly Talks by Annette Wynne
- 12 The Butterfly’s Dream by Hannah F. Gould
Despite the fact that the poet doesn’t mention the word “butterfly” until the poem is almost over, it’s clear from the start that she’s thinking about one, while also addressing and talking about the milkweed that the insect feeds on. Here are the first four lines:
O patient creature with a peasant face,
Burnt by the summer sun, begrimed with stains,
And standing humbly in the dingy lanes!
There seems a mystery in thy work and place,
Written in 1801, ‘To A Butterfly’ is a two stanza poem in which the speaker describes observing a butterfly. He speaks about where it sat, not knowing its habits, and the connection he feels between that creature and himself. What’s different about this poem is that the speaker uses an apostrophe. Throughout, he addresses the butterfly as if it can hear and/or respond to him. Here are the first four lines of the poem:
I’VE watched you now a full half-hour;
Self-poised upon that yellow flower
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
In this piece, the speaker taps into themes of confinement and freedom. He also alludes to those of hope and despair. These themes are embodied in this poem through the image of a butterfly. It’s quite haunting and beautifully written. Even more than a depiction of butterflies, this poem is an allusion to the Holocaust, written by a poet who died in Auschwitz in 1994. Here are a few lines:
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone…
One of two Dickinson poems on this list, ‘Two Butterflies went out at Noon—’ describes two butterflies taking flight together. She uses personification to depict their movements. She describes them as voyagers setting off upon a “shining sea” whose movements are not reported to her. Here are the first four lines:
Two butterflies went out at noon
And waltzed above a stream,
Then stepped straight through the firmament
And rested on a beam;
In ‘The Butterfly’s Day,’ Dickinson compares a butterfly to a woman. It emerged from a cocoon as a “lady from her door” into the “summer afternoon.” As the poem continues readers have to work out whether or not the speaker is thinking about a butterfly or a woman. For example, these lines make up the third stanza:
Her pretty parasol was seen
Contracting in a field
Where men made hay, then struggling hard
With an opposing cloud,
This piece describes the movements of a flock of blue butterflies, their deaths, and reincorporation into the muddy April ground.
It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
In this four-stanza poem, the speaker directs her words to a butterfly, something she refers to as an “Exquisite child of the air.” This metaphor is a lovely depiction of how this poet sees these insects. In the following lines, she celebrates the creature, loving how it allows her to think about her life differently. Here are the final four lines of the poem:
From that creeping thing in the dust
To this shining bliss in the blue!
God give me courage to trust
I can break my chrysalis too!
‘Ode to a Butterfly’ is one of the longer poems on this list. It addresses the butterfly, without using the word “butterfly.” The speaker spends the lines celebrating the butterfly’s beauty and freedom. Scholars have suggested that this poem is connected to the poet’s work as an activist for women’s rights and an abolitionist.
Here are the first four lines of the second stanza which include the speaker’s escalations over the butterfly’s life:
Thou winged blossom! liberated thing!
What secret tie binds thee to other flowers
Still held within the garden’s fostering?
Will they too soar with the completed hours,
Sarah Piatt, a nineteenth and twentieth-century poet, wrote ‘After Wings’ (published 1915) to speak about what comes after learning to “wear/ Wings once.” And the need to keep them “fain,” “high and fair.” If one loses their wings they’ll have to endure the pain of becoming a worm again.
This was your butterfly, you see—
His fine wings made him vain:
The caterpillars crawl, but he
Passed them in rich disdain.—
In the three stanzas of ‘The Butterfly and the Bee,’ the speaker describes a conversation he thought he overheard between a butterfly and a “labouring bee.” The butterfly speaks about the bee’s lack of colors and the bee responds that colors are beneath his care. He thinks wearing colors is for “gaudy sloth[s].”
Methought I heard a butterfly
Say to a labouring bee:
“Thou hast no colours of the sky
On painted wings like me.”
‘A Butterfly Talks’ is a short poem in which the speaker describes a butterfly’s movements around flowers and how she understands the creature’s mind. She believes that he sees things that puzzle him and thinks “as well as some who write and read.” Here are the first lines:
A butterfly talks to each flower
And stops to eat and drink,
And I have seen one lighting
‘The Butterfly’s Dream’ is a fairly long poem in which the speaker describes a butterfly’s actions, thoughts, and dreams. He speaks in his sleep, insults those he thinks he’s seeing, and finally dies.
’T is said, for the fall and the pelting, combined
With suppressed ebullitions of pride,
This vain son of summer no balsam could find,
But he crept under covert and died.