A Darting Fear, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

In "A DARTING FEAR — A POMP — A TEAR," Emily Dickinson presents a concise exploration of emotions associated with anticipation and disappointment. Through vivid imagery and succinct language, the poem captures the experience of awakening to a reality different from one's expectations.


A darting fear — a pomp — a tear —
A waking on a morn
To find that what one waked for,
Inhales the different dawn.


"A DARTING FEAR — A POMP — A TEAR" encapsulates the emotions of apprehension, expectation, and disappointment. The poem begins with the mention of a "darting fear," suggesting a sudden and unsettling apprehension. It then alludes to a sense of anticipation and excitement, described as "a pomp," as one awakens on a morning. However, the last two lines reveal a twist—the realization that what was anticipated has turned out differently, symbolized by "the different dawn."

Critical Analysis

The poem's brevity contributes to its impact, conveying a swift emotional shift. The opening lines create a sense of urgency and unease with the phrase "A darting fear," evoking a sharp and fleeting sensation. This emotion is contrasted with "a pomp," which signifies grandeur and anticipation. These lines create a dynamic tension between fear and expectation.

The phrase "a waking on a morn" not only conveys the literal act of waking up but also represents the act of becoming conscious of something. This sets the stage for the emotional revelation that follows.

The concluding lines—"To find that what one waked for, / Inhales the different dawn"—reveal the unexpected twist. The imagery of "inhales the different dawn" suggests that the anticipated outcome has transformed into something unexpected, highlighting the contrast between the initial excitement and the ultimate realization.


  • Anticipation and Disappointment: The poem explores the emotional journey from anticipation and excitement to disappointment as reality diverges from expectations.
  • Shift in Perspective: The poem illustrates how a sudden realization can alter one's perspective and emotional state, highlighting the transient nature of emotions.


  • Apprehension: The poem conveys a sense of apprehension through the phrase "darting fear," suggesting an uneasy and sudden emotion.
  • Anticipation: The term "pomp" conveys a sense of anticipation, excitement, and grandeur associated with an awaited event.
  • Disappointment: The revelation that what was anticipated is not what was expected leads to a sense of disappointment and deflation.


  • Imagery: The vivid imagery of "darting fear," "pomp," and "different dawn" evokes powerful emotions and visualizes the emotional journey described in the poem.
  • Contrast: The juxtaposition of contrasting emotions and outcomes—fear and anticipation, expected and unexpected—creates tension and impact.

Think of a time when you anticipated an event with excitement, only to experience disappointment when reality didn't match your expectations. How did you navigate through the emotions of anticipation and disappointment? Share your thoughts and reflections in the comments below, and let's explore the complex interplay of emotions.

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