After discussing the poem and your ideas in class, write a short response to the question below:
“How does Dickinson present the Sea in poem 520?” 


In my opinion I felt that from the poem 520, Emily Dickinson describes nature and the sea together from the first insight of the poem. However when you look at the poem in detail you can see just from the class discussion that there is so many possibilities and interpretations to the poem that gets you really thinking about the meaning of the poem and what Emily Dickinson style is too writing and concluding the events that created poem 520.

From the interpretations presented in class I have come to the conclusion that the sea represents the relationship and strength of a man against the vulnerability of Emily Dickinson and the past events that have lead to this theme and nature of the poem. Emily's vulnerability is shown by the life she leads. The actions that leads to the consequences of her life is pictured between a dream and reality. The Sea represents the various strengths of the man by the levels of the tide. Some of the beautiful similes represented in the poem just shows how much she cares of her poems and the inspirations she gets them from.

Also from only reading two of her poems I have come to realise that she holds little confidence of her emotions and the events that have been and that has yet to come of her life...

... Only in her poems. From her background I have seen just how much her poems mean to her. Her life are her poems...


In poem 520 the verses allow the reader to pick up on the loose style presented in the poem as it begins with her talking about a dog then she quickly abandons the topic so we can already anticipate the rest of the poem. It discusses the obvious topic of the overwhelming sea as a force of nature, which could be interpreted as a man inflicting his power over her as a woman and her trying to stand against it. However man-made objects are shown as well, the ships and her house show still, inanimate objects she often refers back to allowing the reader to form opinions about her nature as a recluse and how her house is perhaps the one solid comfort she had.

In my opinion the poem is about people perhaps feeling superior and powerful but when taken to a vast, wide place such as the beach you are forced to take in your surroundings and you just become a small part of something big. Though there are quite intimate and abstract thoughts in this poem, referencing men, religion and beauty. Her writing is in some places quiet dreamlike with some rhyming verses which contrast with the topic of realisation at the end verses. I think the sea is almost described as a battle and the poem is her fighting it speaking of the water moving past her body and the waves getting tougher trying to knock her down or ‘eat me up’, but no matter what my opinion is there is no explanation or final emotions shown at the end so it is a cryptic poem only truly understood by Emily Dickinson herself.


Poem 520 seems to me to actually be talking about the sea itself, and the idea of being a small part of something much bigger and stronger. From our class discussion, I saw just how many interpretations can be made. I see the poem as a normal place and event – taking a walk by the sea – being presented in the unique way in which Emily Dickinson saw it. She took something ordinary and turned it into something magical and fantasy-like, for example with the idea of mermaids. I also think that the sea holds a great attraction for her, has power over her almost. I get the idea that she just stands, letting the tide wash over her, rather than actually walking into it. There’s a sort of stillness to the poem, which is emphasised when she says, ‘And then – I started – too-’ It’s as if she’s been enraptured by the sea and the scene before her and now she suddenly comes back to reality. But even when she starts to walk away, it doesn’t let her go straight away.

Dickinson has given the sea something of a regal presence. She refers to it as ‘He’, the capitalisation the same as we write when we refer to God. She describes him as bowing and giving a ‘Mighty look’. Overall the poem suggests that it has significance to her and that when she looks at the sea, she sees more than most people. This can be taken to extend to her view of all things. She looks at something and sees not what is before her, but something more, something deeper. It not only demonstrates her extraordinarily unique perspective, it allows the reader to briefly see through her eyes as well. Emily Dickinson may be talking about the power of man. It is certainly easy to interpret the poem that way. There are perhaps certain areas where there is some deeper meaning, but it does not necessarily have to be deciphered. The poem is very different to There’s a Certain Slant of Light.


The sea is presented as a real person in 520. This is because of the use of words like 'He' Dickinson uses. The whole poem has a emotional flow to it - one minute the sea is pulling at her and the next she is pulling away - almost like she cannot decide what to do. The idea that she 'visited' the sea seems to me like a respectful thing, a presence you want to visit. I think she sees the sea as a real person somehow, like she when she says 'He followed' and 'His Silver Heel'. Another interpretation is that maybe Dickinson is talking about actual sea, perhaps have walked along the shore and transforming it into something special, unique - like a deep connection to the sea.

Her ideas and the way she transforms ordinary things contradicts the idea that she had been by herself in her later life. In the poem 520, she talks about the sea in the last stanza as the sea really was a man than a sea. The way it says that it 'met the Solid Town' and 'No One He seemed to know', all the aleination the sea felt, how it seemed to know no one and the personfication used by Dickinson again makes the reader to think that she is actually talking about a person - more likely a man.

Dickinson's talent of writing which tranforms normal things can be seem in this poem clearly - the way she sees more than an eye allows, something deeper yet its there when you focus. The poem is absolutely amazing with its different interpretations and the sea interests me more than anything.


From our class discussions, I discovered that the sea symbolizes a particular male character this is because she has capitalized 'He'. 'He followed.and His silver heel.' This shows superiority and that the sea is a real person to her. Additionally,she may just be talking about the actual sea, somehow Dickinson has made a unique twist, as if the sea and herselff has a deep special connection.

There are many intrepetations and ideas made for this poem.The narrator describes an early visit to the sea, the word "early" having the double sense of early in life and early in the morning. I realised how she changes normal day events into something magical,spiritual and advenourous.the adventure is a vicarious escape from her repressive environment, her "solid town," as she calls it in the last stanza, thus contrasting its safe solidity with the terrifying fluidity of the sea. 'The mermaids in the basement Came out to look at me." Mermaids, those legendary creatures who live in the sea, come not to greet their visitor but to "look at" her, an inimical gesture to one who wished never to be looked at, or even seen.

The phrase "But no man moved me" at the beginning of the third stanza may be read quite literally, I think, the word "moved" having both an emotional and a purely physical connotation; the poet cannot be moved from the spot where she stands immobilized with dread and longing, the sea advances toward her, rising past her feet to her knees, her waist and finally her breast, and threatening at last to overwhelm her completely by engulfing her head.The poet's fear of the sea is based upon the very excessiveness of its power to undo her. It is at this point, when her whole being seems endangered, that she succeeds, by the strength of her intellect, her will, in turning to go.

This poem is absolutely mesmerizing and very moving.


This poem suggests to me that Emily Dickenson saw confort in nature. Although she describes the sea in this case as quite fierce or 'mighty', I feel that her responce is that she is somewhat at ease and very serene in its company. She describes the sea to 'overflow with pearl'. The idea that although the sea 'overflow's' her which could be daunting to her character, it overflows with 'pearl' which is seen to be delicate and precious. Linking to my first point of Emily feeling serene and comfortable in the sea's presence.
At the time this poem was written Emily was a recluse. The way she says the sea would 'eat me up' could be a metaphore to show nature overcoming and relasing her out of her reclusive shell . The poem also talks about the sea going 'past my simple Shoes...Apron...Bodice' this could mean literally the sea was coming up to her bodice physically, or metaphorically could suggest the sea is infact going into her body and mind, past her clothes and evoking her emotions. consequenting in her having mentally a short amount of time to escape from herself.


I think that the poem 520 has some literal connotations such as Emily Dickinson going to the beach and then she she begins to mix up the physical state with a dream world. I believe the extended metaphor of the sea relates to either a secret ex-lover (due to the beautiful/romantic phrases "silver heel" and her referring the sea as a male) or society over powering and controlling her, restricting and containing her.
Overall i think the poem highlights her hate for feeling over powered and how as a woman she likes to be indepedant and powerfull, wanting to break away from what is expected of her and the restrictions of society-it could relate to when her 3 poems were published whilst she was alive were heavily edited inorder to meet with society's expectations as she rebelled against it in her style or writing.


In 'Poem 520', Emily Dickinson presents the sea in both a literal and subtle way, as is the case with her other poems I have read up to now. On a literal level, the narrator takes her dog for a walk by the sea early in the morning. However, Dickinson interestingly seems to present the sea in a different way, which reflects her sheltered life: the frigates are on the 'upper floor', and she is presumed to be a 'mouse' aground upon the sands.
The sea is also presented as male in character: the use of the personal pronoun 'He' illustrates this. Notice also how the word 'he' is capitalised: this highlights the significance of the word, and this is similar to the capitalisation of the word 'he' in reference to God in many translations of the Bible. This suggests that the sea is all powerful.
The movement of the sea is also presented in a very sensual manner - the sea touches her bodice, and its movements mimic the actual cycle of the tides: it engulfs the narrator, then retreats. Two sides of the sea are shown: the raw power of nature and its sensuous, beautiful side: the use of words such as 'mermaid', 'silver' and 'pearl', alongside words such as 'mighty'.


Throughout the poem it is portrayed that the persona is the weakest thing and with it is insignificant, firstly seen by the comparison to the 'mouse', however it can be inferred that she is inferior to an opposing force. In this instance it is the sea, how the sea overwhelms her by going "past my simple Shoe... Apron...Belt.. past (her) Bodice -- too --", this shows that it is more than the literal meaning of the sea, because the imagery is quite sexualised because it is quite initmate items, like the bodice. Also, the capitalisation of the items shows her personal belonging to each one highlighting her association with each item.
The whole poem also has a contradicting nature, for example it seems like the persona wants to be with the 'sea' but at the same time it is constricting her as a person. Especially seen by the "He followed -- close behind --I felt his Silver Heel...Upon my Ankle", because it shows her trying to leave but the force not letting her do so and hinging her, but then it contradicts itself by the imagery of the 'overflow with pearls' because the pearls show a precious jewell that isnt harmful or hindering. This juxtopositioning image shows how it creates internal conflict whether to give in to the 'sea' or to resist. which finally culminates in even with her going back to the
'the Solid Town', the 'sea' has won because ' with a Mighty look --' he 'withdrew' which connotes that the 'sea' has the upperhand on the situation because its inferred that she would return to him, even though she tried to retreat. Also, with the open ended end it portrays how their is no finality to her actions which means that it is not over and she would perhaps go back. Not only this but the phrase 'and bowing' suggests that the 'sea' commends her this time which shows that it has happened before, therefore with the persona being caught in this cycle.

Lamisa ;)

Dickinsons poetry has both obvious literal meaning, but also an subtle metaphorical one. Personally I saw the sea as a male companion. There is a sexual tension, and the connotations of
'Went past my simple Shoe --
And past my Apron -- and my Belt --
And past my Bodice -- too --
presents intimacy. At first she allows the sea to overcome her, but at the end of stanza four she suddenly realises that she is succumbing to him and tries to escape. I feel as if there is a reluctancy in the way that she departs, and there is a longing to return.
The nature and fluidity of the sea is represented with delicate images of pearls and dew, this juxtoposes with her suddenly breaking away from 'him'.
Dickinson's themes of nature , evokes serenity and represents her fragile and lonely persona.

Sophie The Great

I think Emily Dickinson is trying to portray the sea as a metophorical man or a greater power which has hold over her. We see this from "And made as He would eat me up -- " which shows that she lets it consume her. Plus the "He" is in capitals that shows the importance, or even could be considered as a reference to God.
However near the end of the poem she describes her walking away like a release but the sea will not let her go as it seems like its clawing at her ankles. Finally the sea gives her a departing look which suggests that he knows he has control over her and she will be back which again backs up the theory that it is a man or past lover.

Ravneet (:

Emily Dickinson's poem 520 shows the extended metaphorical resemblance of the sea as a man of which she is deprived. Dickinson references the nature of the sea as something sexual, she states "no man moved me - till the tide" which can be seen in the literal sense of the power of the sea but also how she has no man to accompany her, again depicting her being overwhelmed by the sea. She continues "past my Apron - and my Belt And past my Bodice - too -" this builds up a slow motion scene of her being covered by the sea, using the term 'Bodice' again adds an intimate reference of the sea she imagines as a man.

Towards the finish of the poem, Dickinson shows herself walking away, as she realises "He would eat me up -" she shows the cycles of a tide as it comes to the "Solid Town -" and has no authority on land; the poem ends as though it is not yet finished and she will return...

At first glance it was hard to understand the poem but from our class discussion I was able to pick out alternative meanings.


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