Apparently with no surprise

Emily Dickinson

In ‘Apparently with no surprise,’ Emily Dickinson explores themes of life, death, time, and God. The poet takes the reader to a moving snapshot of life and death.

Emily Dickinson

Nationality: America

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: After life comes death

Themes: Death

Speaker: Unknown

Emotions Evoked: Compassion, Sadness

Poetic Form: Block Form, Free Verse

Time Period: 19th Century

Dickinson captures a snapshot of life and death in this poem, doing what artists and writers have tried to do for centuries.

Dickinson depicts these themes through the destruction of a flower by the coming winds of winter. This is something that she asserts is natural and unstoppable. In ‘Apparently with no surprise,’ time is a force that no one can come up against. As Dickinson symbolizes time with the sun, she also describes God looking down approvingly at everything below. 

Apparently with no surprise
Emily Dickinson

Apparently with no surpriseTo any happy FlowerThe Frost beheads it at it’s play –In accidental power – The blonde Assassin passes on –The Sun proceeds unmovedTo measure off another DayFor an Approving God –
Apparently with no surprise by Emily Dickinson

Summary of Apparently with no surprise

‘Apparently with no surprise’ by Emily Dickinson is a short poem that effectively conveys the natural process of life and death through images of Frost and Flower.

The poem describes, through simple language and short lines, the inevitability of death. The poet depicts a happy flower that is beheaded by the frost. This is something that happens quickly and without fanfare. The sun does not stop to take notice nor does God do anything to stop it.

Structure of Apparently with no surprise 

Apparently with no surprise’ by Emily Dickinson is a one-stanza poem that is made up of eight lines. These lines follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, common for Dickinson’s poems. The meter is also easily recognizable as Dickinson’s favorite. The lines alternate between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. 

The first of these two forms means that the lines contain four sets of two beats. The first of these is unstressed and the second is stressed. While the next line follows the same pattern of stressed and unstressed, it only contains three sets of two beats. The combination of this metrical pattern with the rhyme scheme of ABCB is known as a ballad meter or hymn meter. 

Literary Devices in Apparently with no surprise

Dickinson makes use of several literary devices in ‘Apparently with no surprise’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, enjambment, and metaphor. The latter is the most important technique at work in the poem. 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. In this case, the metaphors take some deciphering. The poet is describing a process of life and death, for all forms of life (from flower to human) through the image of the beheaded flower. The “Frost” is a symbol of death while the moving, uncaring “Sun” is a symbol of time.

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “Flower” and “Frost” as well as “play” and “power” in the first four lines. Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. It can be seen in the transition between lines one and two as well as that between lines two and three. 

Analysis of Apparently with no surprise 

Lines 1-4

Apparently with no surprise

To any happy Flower

The Frost beheads it at it’s play –

In accidental power –

In the first four lines of ‘Apparently with no surprise,’ the speaker begins by describing a normal occurrence, the beheading of a flower. This is something that happens naturally as the frost picks up. Its power becomes too great, “accidental power” that is, and it destroys the flower, a symbol of spring. In these lines, a reader should immediately take note of the use of personification. It is seen through the description of the flower as “happy” and with the “Frost” having “power”. Because winter kills flowers every year, the death of this particular flower is of no surprise to anyone. 

By capitalizing “Flower” and “Frost,” when they aren’t proper nouns, the poet is calling attention to them for another reason. A reader should consider what this reason might be and if the flower and frost might symbolize other things. The frost, for example, is a likely representative for death, a more powerful force. The flower might represent humanity, hope, or any form of life that is cut short. 

Lines 5-8 

The blonde Assassin passes on –

The Sun proceeds unmoved

To measure off another Day

For an Approving God –

In the fifth line of ‘Apparently with no surprise,’ the speaker refers to the frost as a “blond Assassin”. This is an interesting and surprising description and only adds more personification to the poem. There is an immediate juxtaposition between the work of an assassin, to kill on purpose, and the action of the frost, killing accidentally. The word “blonde” is also an unusual choice. This likely refers to how pale the frost is or perhaps what it looks like when the sun hits it just right. This is supported by the next line which mentions the sun. 

She goes on to say that the sun is proceeding “unmoved / To measure off another Day”. The death of the flower and the destructive power of the frost, or death, is not strange. There is nothing world-ending about this loss. The sun is here as a symbol of time, moving on without a worry for anything going on in the world. 

These lines are all good examples of another technique known as enjambment. IT can be seen in the transitions between lines six, seven, and eight. Between seven and eight the poet introduces God into the poem. God, she says, is approving of everything that’s going on in the world. He is well aware of the life and death of his creation and is happy to let things go on as they are. This is yet one more way that the poet is able to show that life moves as it will. There is no way to influence God, stop time, or slow death and everyone should be as “happy” and accepting of it as the flower is. 

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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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