‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man’ is not one of the poet’s most complicated. But, it is quite interesting nonetheless. The text follows many of the patterns that readers should be ready for within Dickinson’s verse. This includes a standard pattern of rhyme and meter and the number of stanzas and number of lines.
She also makes use of the dashes and capitalization that her verse is known for. These appear, sometimes surprisingly, in the middle of lines. Seemingly random words are capitalized, and others not. Readers and scholars are split over her reasoning regarding these two techniques. Still, commonly the dashes are read as places Dickinson wanted the reader to pause, and the capital letters perhaps start words that she found more important than others.
The wind tapped like a tired man Emily Dickinson The wind tapped like a tired man, And like a host, 'Come in,' I boldly answered; entered then My residence within A rapid, footless guest, To offer whom a chair Were as impossible as hand A sofa to the air. No bone had he to bind him, His speech was like the push Of numerous humming-birds at once From a superior bush. His countenance a billow, His fingers, if he pass, Let go a music, as of tunes Blown tremulous in glass. He visited, still flitting; Then, like a timid man, Again he tapped- 't was flurriedly- And I became alone.
Explore The Wind--tapped like a tired Man
Throughout the five stanzas of this piece, Dickinson’s speaker describes a special visitor who came knocking at her door. The wind, which she describes as a “tired Man,” comes into her home. He can’t sit, stay still, or do any of the things a normal guest can. She uses several similes to describe the wind’s presence, the sounds it makes, and the way it makes her feel.
By far the most important theme that Dickinson explores in ‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man,’ is nature. From the first line, it’s clear that this is what’s on her speaker’s mind. She focuses in specifically on the fleeting, ephemeral nature of the elements, in this case, wind. The speaker invites the element in her home to swirl around her possessions. While there, it brings various, related images into her mind of other natural scenes and experiences. For example, the feeling of “numerous Humming Birds at once / From a superior Bush”. The wind disappears as quickly as it came at the end of the poem. This relates to the poet’s interest in the fleeting nature of powerful, and beautiful, experiences.
Structure and Form
‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man’ by Emily Dickinson is a five stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. The poem follows patterns that Dickinson is quite well-known for. The stanzas follow a rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. Additionally, every other line is written in either iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. This means that the odd-numbered lines are made up of four sets of two syllables, the first of which is unstressed and the second stressed. The even-numbered lines are shorter. Each line contains three sets of two beats, following the same pattern of stresses.
Dickinson makes use of several literary devices in ‘‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man’. These include but are not limited to examples of enjambment, caesurae, and similes. The latter can be found in the first line of the poem. Dickinson writes that the “Wind…tapped like a tired Man”. It is tied into another important literary device, personification. In this case, Dickinson, or at least her speaker, is personifying “Wind”.
Enjambment is a formal device that is concerned with the placement of line breaks and end-punctuation. For example, the transition between lines three and four of the first stanza and lines two and three of stanza three.
Caesurae are also found in this particular poem, and the majority of Dickinson’s work. They appear when the poet inserts punctuation in the middle, beginning, or towards the end of lines. Due to Dickinson’s very liberal use of dashes, there are numerous examples in the text. For instance, line three of the fourth stanza. It reads: “Let go a music — as of tunes”.
Stanzas One and Two
The Wind — tapped like a tired Man —
And like a Host — “Come in”
I boldly answered — entered then
My Residence within
A Rapid — footless Guest —
To offer whom a Chair
Were as impossible as hand
A Sofa to the Air —
In the first stanza of ‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man’ the speaker begins by noting that the “Wind” was outside her door “tapp[ing]” as a “tired Man” would at the door. Seeking, perhaps desperately, entrance. The speaker, unconquered by the noise, opened her door for “him”. She acted as a “Host” should, bringing a needy guest indoors. She did so “boldly,” as well. There is more that could be read into these lines if one considers the visitor a symbolic man and the host a woman.
The wind came in, a “footless Guest”. But, unlike a guest, it could not sit down in a “Chair”. This was something that was completely impossible. The speaker compares it, through another skillful simile, to a hand trying sit on a sofa of “Air”.
Stanzas Three and Four
No Bone had He to bind Him —
His Speech was like the Push
Of numerous Humming Birds at once
From a superior Bush —
His Countenance — a Billow —
His Fingers, as He passed
Let go a music — as of tunes
Blown tremulous in Glass —
The third and fourth stanzas are just as clear and delightful as the previous. In the third stanza, the speaker begins by describing “him” as having “No Bone” to “bind Him”. These lines continue to describe how the wind is unlike a human being but is still managing to act, at least somewhat, in a similar way. “His speech,” Dickinson says, was “like the Push / Of numerous Humming Birds at once”. Once more she uses a simile in order to depict what being around the wind is like. She uses nature imagery in this like to keep the poem in an appropriate realm.
The fourth stanza also speaks to the way the wind moves and the sounds it makes. They are like “a music—as of tunes / Blown tremulous in Glass”. There are a couple of good examples in these two stanzas of alliteration with “Billow” and “Blown” and “Bone,” “Birds,” and “Bush”.
He visited — still flitting —
Then like a timid Man
Again, He tapped — ’twas flurriedly —
And I became alone —
In the final four lines of ‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man,’ the poet concludes with lines that describes the wind’s exit. She brings back in a simile comparing the wind to a man, this time “timid,” and the sound of tapping. He exists her home and she “became alone” with his departure. The poem ends without end-punctuation, suggesting that the wind is off to visit someone else or perhaps even return.
Readers who enjoyed ‘The Wind—tapped like a tired Man’ should also look into some of Dickinson’s other best-known poems. These include ‘Hope is the thing with feathers,’ ‘The Heart asks Pleasure-first,’ and ‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’. Other related poems include ‘Ode to the West Wind’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley and ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes. The former is one of Shelley’s best-known and one of his most memorable odes. The speaker in this piece worships the wind while also using personification to define it. ‘Wind’ takes place over one might and depicts a family stuck inside their home, listening to a storm raging outside.