Poetry Sunday: “Dear March – Come in”
by Emily Dickinson

Dear March – Come in (1320)


Dear March – Come in –

How glad I am –

I hoped for you before –

Put down your Hat –

You must have walked –

How out of Breath you are –

Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –

Did you leave Nature well –

Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –

I have so much to tell –


I got your Letter, and the Birds –

The Maples never knew that you were coming –

I declare – how Red their Faces grew –

But March, forgive me –

And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –

There was no Purple suitable –

You took it all with you –


Who knocks? That April –

Lock the Door –

I will not be pursued –

He stayed away a Year to call

When I am occupied –

But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come


That blame is just as dear as Praise

And Praise as mere as Blame –


This poem is in the public domain.


Commentary by Rebecca Foust, Poetry Editor

This version of Emily Dickinson’s wonderful poem arranges it into 26 lines in four stanzas of 10, 7, 6, and 2 lines, but I saw at least one other that gathered it into four stanzas of 11, 9, 7, and 2, for a total of 29 lines. Without a lot more research, I could not tell you how this poem originally appeared in Dickinson’s ribbon-tied “fascicles” before her editors got their hands on it, but the version presented to you today is from The Poetry Foundation and is the one that made the most sense to me.

As in many Dickinson poems, meter and end rhyme are mercurial in “Dear March – Come in,” certainly present, but without the rigidity and predictability of most formal poetry of her time. If I had to assign a meter, I’d call it iambic trimeter that includes some four-beat (tetrameter) and two-beat (dimeter) lines. That use of more than one meter reminds me that much of Dickinson’s verse is written in common meter, a variation on hymn meter that alternates lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. Famous for bending the rules, Dickinson reinvents common meter by favoring slant over full end rhyme, varying the numbers of syllables and beats in lines, and interposing dashes that sometimes interrupt the meter, and then re-invents it again here.

These variations enable Dickinson to write lines with remarkable tensile strength that also feel fresh, lively, and energetic. As with many of her poems, this one accelerates and slows, interrupts itself, holds its breath, and ends in an unresolved place. Substituting near for full rhymes and decreasing or increasing syllable counts slightly off the expected pattern have an unbalancing effect that creates spontaneity. In this way the poem captures the freshness and vigor of a gusty March day, allowing it to resonate with contemporary readers more than a hundred years after it was written.

Notice how the predictability of fixed meter enables Dickinson to play content off against form in today’s poem. Nine lines (3, 6, 8, 10, 17, 20 ,22, 24, and 25) have three beats, six (7, 11, 13, 16, 21, and 25) have four beats, and one line (19) has just two. The remaining lines teeter between dimeter and trimeter or between trimeter and tetrameter, depending on how a given reader chooses to lay their emphases. That is, there is a discernible pattern, but one so subtle and variable that it feels alive, crucial in this poem about spring. It’s like the Fibonacci sequence repeated in nature’s observable but mysterious patterns: the whorls of a head of broccoli, say, or the turns in a nautilus shell.

As for end rhyme, I located 13 different phonemes (units of sound, usually a word or syllable) ending the 29 lines. Most of these sounds are repeated in the form of slant rhyme or assonance further down in the poem. For example, echoes of the –l sound of  “well,” first seen at the end of line 8, recur in the words “tell,” “suitable,” “April, “call,” “trivial,” and so on. I also noticed that end rhyme gets more saturated—and builds sonic intensity—as the poem progresses. In stanza 1, only two of 10 lines have end-rhyme partners: “before” in line 3 slant rhymes with “are” in line 6, and “well” in line 8 full rhymes with “tell” in line 10. The second stanza more frequently repeats end-of-line rhymes, and some of them relate back to sounds first heard in in stanza one. Most notably, there are three full rhymes at the ends of lines 13, 15, and 17 (grew/hue/you), and all of them slant rhyme with “me” in line 9 of the first stanza. The third stanza ups the ante, slant rhyming lines 18, 21, and 23 (April/call/trivial) and line 20’s “pursued” with line 22’s “occupied.” The only line in stanza three that does not relate back to some previous end-of-line sound is the last, ending in “come.” But readers, that word “come” did occur once before in line 1 (if not as the end word), and it does find a conclusive slant rhyme in the very last word of the poem, “blame.”

I know it seems complex, but I’ve only just scratched the surface of the sonic potential of this poem; if we expand the inquiry to internal rhymes and word repetitions  in the poem as a whole, the sound tapestry becomes even richer and more complex. Because the rhymes do not follow a strict pattern and are often not full, though, the resulting pattern is haunting and elusive. When rhyme and meter are too perfect, they can sound artificial. But a complete absence of pattern does not satisfy the lyrical impulse, the human impulse for pattern and music. As usual, Dickinson strikes the perfect balance in this poem.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.