‘Two Butterflies went out at Noon—,’ by one of the greatest American poets, Emily Dickinson is a thought-provoking piece of art. It boundlessly captures the journey of two butterflies to eternity.
This poem concerns the journey of two voyagers. They are two butterflies. It seems that Emily Dickinson had some kind of vision concerning these butterflies waltzing above a stream. Suddenly they change their course and take an upward way directly to heaven. However, this poem contains several elements that readers come across in Dickinson’s poetry. The metaphorical reference to the butterflies as “two voyagers” along with the description of the sky as “ether sea” are undoubtedly unique at the same time intriguing. In this way, Dickinson welcomes readers into her world of mysteries and thoughtfulness.
This poem describes two butterflies that went out at noon “And waltzed above a stream.” Thereafter, they took an upward motion and headed towards the “shining sea,” a metaphorical reference to heaven. While reading this section, it seems that the description is some kind of dream vision the poet had. However, in the last section of the poem, Dickinson broods over where they had gone. She thinks a distant bird or a merchantman had seen them. But, she was not reported about their location.
This poem consists of three stanzas. Each stanza of the poem contains four rhyming lines. The poet uses a simple 4-line scheme while writing this poem. For this reason, the rhyme scheme of this piece is ABCB and it goes on like this throughout the work. As an example, in the first stanza, “stream” and “beam” rhyme together. Apart from that, the metrical scheme of this poem is conventional. The poet writes this poem using iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter alternatively. For instance, the first and third lines are in iambic tetrameter. Whereas the second and fourth lines are in iambic trimeter.
The poet uses alliteration in the phrase, “stepped straight”. Here, the repetition of the “s” sound rings in a reader’s mind. Moreover, the poet uses anaphora in the first two lines of the third stanza. There is a symbol of heaven in the phrase, “a shining sea.” Thereafter, the last line of the second stanza contains a hyperbaton or inversion. Lastly, the poet uses metonymy in the line, “By frigate or by merchantman.”
Analysis, Stanza by Stanza
Two butterflies went out at noon
And waltzed above a stream,
Then stepped straight through the firmament
And rested on a beam;
Dickinson’s poem, ‘Two Butterflies went out at Noon—,’ begins with an image of two butterflies. The fairytale-like beginning of the poem is interesting at the same time thought-provoking. However, the poet visualizes two butterflies that went out at noon. Thereafter, they waltzed above a stream nearby. Then they stepped straight through the firmament (a reference to the sky) and rested on a beam. After reading this section, it becomes clear that the scene depicted above is a dream vision. Otherwise one cannot come across such a scene in reality.
Whatsoever, here, the poet metaphorically compares the butterflies to human souls. The journey of souls to heaven gets beautifully depicted by the symbolic representation of the butterflies in the first stanza of this poem.
And then together bore away
Upon a shining sea, —
Though never yet, in any port,
Their coming mentioned be.
In the second stanza, Dickinson talks about what she saw in her vision. Previously, she has seen those creatures resting on a light beam. By now, the metaphorical voyagers have born away upon a “shining sea.” Here, the “shining sea” is a metaphor. Dickinson compares the sky to the sea shining due to sunlight in this phrase. Thereafter, she remarks that they have not reached any port yet. Along with that, no one knows when they are going to return. It seems as if the butterflies have headed towards eternity. Henceforth, their return is not guaranteed. Moreover, this section also reflects the poet’s longing for eternal life.
If spoken by the distant bird,
If met in ether sea
By frigate or by merchantman,
Report was not to me.
The last stanza of the poem contains anaphora in the first two lines. These lines begin with a similar word. The poet uses this device for emphasizing her idea present in these two lines. However, in this section, Dickinson refers to a “distant bird” that might have seen those butterflies. This bird is not an ordinary one. It lives in a distant place, probably in heaven. The bird acts like a messenger who is unable to deliver the message to the poet.
Thereafter, Dickinson says that the voyagers might have met a frigate or a merchantman in “ether sea”. Again, the metaphor, “ether sea,” illustrates the idea of heaven. Moreover, the poet visualizes the sky as an ethereal sea. Apart from that, the frigate is a kind of light weighed ship that can move quickly in water. Here, the poet uses metonymy in the usage of the word, “frigate.” She refers to the on-boarders by referring to the ship. Whatsoever, in this section, the poet says that if any of them met the voyagers in the ether sea, they must tell the poet first. As she wants to know badly about their destination.
‘Two Butterflies went out at Noon—’ was published in 1896. It appears in Dickinson’s poetry collection “The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Series Two”. Emily Dickinson was one of the best 19th century American poets. Though there is little known about her life, her poetry reveals every subtle thought of her mind. Those thoughts help readers to understand the psyche of the poet. Her unique style of writing along with her poetic sensibilities made her dear to readers of all walks of life. However, like her other works, this poem also deals with the themes of death and immortality. Moreover, there are also some spiritual elements in this poem. Apart from that, this poem also reflects her bent towards romantic themes. Here, she talks about a simple idea. But readers have to understand how she makes this idea extraordinary.
Here is a list of a few poems that similarly showcase the themes present in Emily Dickinson’s lyric, ‘Two Butterflies went out at Noon—’. Readers may refer to the following poems for further details.
- The World by Henry Vaughan – This poem also features the theme of eternity. Here, the poet speaks on the ways of men and women risk their place in eternity by overvaluing earthly pleasures.
- The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann – In this poem, the poet uses the image of a butterfly to symbolize the loss of freedom.
- The Tuft of Flowers by Robert Frost – It’s one of the best Robert Frost poems. In this poem, the poet uses the symbol of a butterfly as a messenger of beauty.
- A Bird, came down the Walk by Emily Dickinson – Like ‘Two Butterflies went out at Noon—’, in this one of the best Emily Dickson poems, the speaker describes simple, yet beautiful, actions of a bird searching for food and then taking flight.