A Route of Evanescence

Emily Dickinson

‘A Route of Evanescence’ by Emily Dickinson describes its subject through a series of metaphors, allusions, and images. But, never actually states that the subject is a hummingbird.


Emily Dickinson

Nationality: American

Emily Dickinson redefined American poetry with unique line breaks and unexpected rhymes.

Notable works include 'Because I could not stop for Death' and 'Hope is the Thing with Feathers.' 

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Nature should encourage you to slow down

Themes: Nature

Speaker: Someone who knows a lot about nature

Emotions Evoked: Amusement, Enjoyment, Excitement

Poetic Form: Block Form

Time Period: 19th Century

'A Route of Evanescence' focuses on one of Dickinson's key subjects–nature. Specifically, she turns her clever poetic eye toward a flying hummingbird.

Dickinson explores themes of nature, and human understanding of the natural world, as well as the emotion and physical experience of being in “awe” of something. Both of these themes are demonstrated throughout the ‘A Route of Evanescence,’ even though it is only eight lines long.

A Route of Evanescence
Emily Dickinson

A Route of Evanescence,With a revolving Wheel –A Resonance of EmeraldA Rush of Cochineal –And every Blossom on the BushAdjusts it’s tumbled Head –The Mail from Tunis – probably,An easy Morning’s Ride –
A Route of Evanescence by Emily Dickinson

Summary of A Route of Evanescence

A Route of Evanescence’ by Emily Dickinson is a complex, multilayered poem that uses imagery to describes a quickly moving hummingbird.

Throughout the eight lines of the poem, Dickinson uses several different literary devices in order to describe the sight of a hummingbird. She’s interested in how it moves and how it influences its environment. The bird is quite quick, speedily flying from one flower to the next, turning their “heads.” The poem concludes with the speaker suggesting the bird comes from somewhere exotic, such as “Tunis” or Tunisia, Africa. 

Structure of A Route of Evanescence

A Route of Evanescence’ by Emily Dickinson is a very complicated eight-like poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. These lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme but the stanzas are structured as traditional ballad stanzas. This means that the first and third line of each stanza is written in iambic tetrameter, and the second and fourth lines are written in iambic trimeter. 

In “iambic” lines each pair of beats contains one unstressed syllable and one stressed syllable. “tetrameter” means that there are a total of four pairs of beats and “trimeter” means that there are a total of three pairs of beats per line. Despite Dickinson’s fondness for the form, there are a few moments in which the pattern shifts. One of these is in the first line which ends with a spondee or two stressed syllables. 

Literary Devices in A Route of Evanescence

Dickinson makes use of several literary devices in A Route of Evanescence’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, imagery, and metaphor. The latter, a metaphor,  is a comparison between two, unlike things that does not use “like” or “as” is also present in the text. When using this technique a poet is saying that one thing is another thing, they aren’t just similar. For example, in the second line of the poem the speaker compares the hummingbird’s wings to the turning of a wheel.

Imagery refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. Traditionally, the word “image” is related to visual sights, things that a reader can imagine seeing, but imagery is much more than that. It is something one can sense with their five senses. This is one of the most important techniques at work in ‘A Route of Evanescence’. It is seen in every line as the poet describes the hummingbird without ever mentioning its name. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “Route,” “Resonance,” “revolving,” and “Rush” in lines one through four. Or, in line five with “Blossom” and “Bush”.

Analysis of A Route of Evanescence

Lines 1-4

A Route of Evanescence,

With a revolving Wheel –

A Resonance of Emerald

A Rush of Cochineal –

In the first lines of A Route of Evanescence,’ the poet begins by making use of the line that later came to be used as the title. This is the case with almost all of Dickinson’s poems due to the fact that she left them untitled and they were published after her death. One of the first things that a reader should understand is the word “Evanescence”. This line, and all the others, is describing the movements of a hummingbird. Its flight path is quickly created and dissolved, due to the overall speed of the bird, making it evanescent. 

The bird is described through a metaphor in the second line. Its wings appear to be a “revolving Wheel” that goes on an on, powering it through the sky. The colors are strikingly beautiful as well. They are “Emerald” and “Cochineal,” or red/crimson. They are vivid and memorable. Through these depicts Dickinson is making use of an important technique known as imagery. 

Lines 5-8 

And every Blossom on the Bush

Adjusts it’s tumbled Head –

The Mail from Tunis – probably,

An easy Morning’s Ride –

Dickinson uses another technique, personification, to describe the blossoms on the bushes around the hummingbirds. They turn their heads to look at the bird as it flies by. 

This is a clever way to describe the natural imagery of the scene while also allowing the reader to empathize on a deeper level with the scene.

While considering the bird the speaker’s mind turns to a faraway place. It is so unbelievable and exotic that she suggests that perhaps the bird comes from Tunisia, in Africa. She thinks that “probably” traveling all the way to Tunis or somewhere even more distant is an easy task for the bird. It would be an “easy Morning’s ride” for such a beautiful bird. 

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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