Perhaps You'd Like to Buy a Flower, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"PERHAPS YOU'D LIKE TO BUY A FLOWER" by Emily Dickinson is a whimsical and playful poem that presents a dialogue between the speaker and a potential buyer of a flower. The speaker, in a lighthearted tone, offers to lend the flower to the buyer until a specific event occurs. Through this exchange, the poem explores themes of ownership, temporality, and the transient beauty of nature.

"PERHAPS YOU'D LIKE TO BUY A FLOWER"

Perhaps you'd like to buy a flower ?
But I could never sell.
If you would like to borrow
Until the daffodil
Unties her yellow bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the bees, from clover rows
Their hock and sherry draw,
Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!

Summary

"PERHAPS YOU'D LIKE TO BUY A FLOWER" features a dialogue between the speaker and a potential buyer interested in purchasing a flower. The speaker responds humorously, asserting that they could never sell a flower. Instead, they offer to lend the flower until a specific event occurs: the moment when the daffodil unties its "yellow bonnet" beneath the village door, and the bees begin to collect nectar from clover rows to make their "hock and sherry." The speaker concludes by stating that they will lend the flower until that specific time, but not an hour more.

Critical Analysis

The poem's opening line presents the humorous scenario of a potential buyer considering purchasing a flower. The speaker's subsequent refusal to sell the flower adds a playful twist to the dialogue.

The assertion that the speaker "could never sell" the flower may reflect the speaker's appreciation for the natural world and its beauty, suggesting that the idea of selling such beauty is inconceivable.

The speaker's offer to lend the flower until specific events occur reflects a sense of temporality and an acknowledgment of the changing seasons. The imagery of the daffodil untying its "yellow bonnet" and the bees gathering nectar conveys the transition from spring to summer.

The poem's conclusion humorously enforces the time limit of the lending arrangement, highlighting the speaker's wit and whimsy in the interaction.

Themes

  • Transience of Beauty: The poem underscores the ephemeral nature of natural beauty, particularly the fleeting presence of flowers in bloom. The loaned flower serves as a metaphor for the temporary nature of beauty and the changing seasons.
  • Ownership and Borrowing: The speaker's refusal to sell the flower and their offer to lend it reflect the themes of ownership and sharing. The poem playfully navigates the idea of temporary possession and the relationship between humans and the natural world.
  • Appreciation of Nature: The speaker's reluctance to sell the flower and their willingness to lend it suggest a deep appreciation for nature's beauty and an understanding of its value beyond monetary terms.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Playfulness: The poem conveys a sense of playfulness and whimsy through the interaction between the speaker and the potential buyer, as well as the speaker's refusal to take the scenario too seriously.
  • Respect for Nature: The speaker's refusal to sell the flower and their offer to lend it reflect a respectful attitude toward the natural world and its inherent beauty.
  • Temporal Awareness: The poem demonstrates an awareness of the passage of time and the changing seasons, as reflected in the references to the daffodil's bloom and the bees' activities.

Literary Devices

  • Dialogue: The poem takes the form of a dialogue between the speaker and the potential buyer, adding a conversational and interactive quality to the poem.
  • Metaphor: The flower serves as a metaphor for the fleeting nature of beauty and the changing seasons, allowing for a deeper exploration of these themes.
  • Imagery: The poem employs imagery of the daffodil untying its "yellow bonnet" and the bees collecting nectar, vividly depicting the progression from spring to summer.

Discussion Question

How does Dickinson use playful language and whimsy in the poem to convey the themes of transience, appreciation of nature, and the relationship between humans and the natural world?

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