It Did Not Surprise Me, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"It Did Not Surprise Me" by Emily Dickinson explores themes of departure, change, and the unpredictability of life's transitions. The poem delves into the speaker's response to an anticipated event, contemplating the impact of a departure and the potential implications for the speaker's own emotions and experiences.

It Did Not Surprise Me

It did not surprise me —
So I said — or thought —
She will stir her pinions
And the nest forgot,
Traverse broader forests —
Build in gayer boughs,
Breathe in Ear more modern
God's old fashioned vows —
This was but a Birdling —
What and if it be
One within my bosom
Had departed me?
This was but a story —
What and if indeed
There were just such coffin
In the heart instead?


"It Did Not Surprise Me" conveys the speaker's response to an anticipated event — likely the departure of a bird. The speaker's initial reaction is one of non-surprise, as they expect the bird to fly away and forget its nest. The speaker envisions the bird traversing larger forests, building nests in livelier trees, and encountering a more modern environment. The poem then shifts to a reflective tone, where the speaker questions the significance of the bird's departure. The speaker ponders whether the bird's departure is comparable to a loss experienced within their own heart, suggesting a deeper emotional connection between the two events.

Critical Analysis

"It Did Not Surprise Me" examines the themes of departure and change, exploring the speaker's contemplation of the significance of an anticipated event. The poem's structure follows a progression from the initial reaction to deeper introspection, reflecting the evolving emotional journey of the speaker.

The opening lines, "It did not surprise me — / So I said — or thought —," establish the speaker's response to the bird's departure. The poem emphasizes the bird's actions by suggesting that it will "stir her pinions" and leave behind its nest, symbolizing the transient nature of life.

The lines that follow illustrate the bird's journey beyond the familiar confines of its nest, suggesting growth and exploration. The bird's movement from the nest to "broader forests" and "gayer boughs" symbolizes its pursuit of new experiences and environments.

The poem then shifts to a contemplative tone, introducing the idea of the bird's departure as a metaphor for the departure of someone cherished from the speaker's heart. The lines "One within my bosom / Had departed me?" explore the concept of emotional loss and separation.

The closing stanza further deepens the contemplation, suggesting that the bird's departure is analogous to the departure of emotions, experiences, or connections. The image of a "coffin / In the heart instead" evokes the idea of emotional burial or loss, inviting readers to consider the complexities of human emotions.

"It Did Not Surprise Me" invites readers to reflect on the transient nature of life, the inevitability of departures, and the emotional resonance of such experiences.


  • Departure and Change: The poem explores the theme of departure and change, whether in the context of a bird's physical departure or the departure of emotions and connections.
  • Reflection and Introspection: The poem delves into the speaker's contemplative thoughts about the significance of departures and the potential parallels to personal experiences.
  • Emotional Impact: The poem suggests that the departure of a bird prompts the speaker to reflect on the deeper emotional connections within their own heart.


  • Expectation and Acceptance: The speaker initially expects the bird's departure and accepts it as a natural occurrence.
  • Contemplation and Questioning: As the poem progresses, the speaker reflects on the emotional implications of the departure and raises questions about its significance.


  • Metaphorical Language: The poem uses the bird's departure as a metaphor to explore deeper emotional departures and changes within the speaker's heart.
  • Symbolism: The bird's departure symbolizes the transient nature of life's experiences and the inevitability of change.

Literary Devices

The poem employs several literary devices:

  • Metaphor: The bird's departure functions as a metaphor for both the transient nature of life and the emotional departures experienced by the speaker.
  • Parallelism: The parallel structure of the lines "This was but a Birdling" and "What and if it be" emphasizes the speaker's contemplative tone and introspection.
  • Rhetorical Question: The poem poses rhetorical questions, such as "One within my bosom / Had departed me?" and "There were just such coffin / In the heart instead?" to engage readers in reflective thought.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this poem in the comments section below and engage in a discussion about its themes, imagery, and emotional impact.

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