Pigmy Seraphs - Gone Astray, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"PIGMY SERAPHS — GONE ASTRAY —" by Emily Dickinson captures the speaker's admiration for the beauty and charm of nature's small creatures, contrasting their elegance with human titles and societal roles. Through vivid imagery and thought-provoking contrasts, the poem reflects on the simple joys and contentment found in the natural world, highlighting its ability to inspire a sense of royalty and fulfillment.


Pigmy seraphs — gone astray —
Velvet people from Vevay —
Balles from some lost summer day —
Bees exclusive Coterie —
Paris could not lay the fold
Belted down with Emerald —
Venice could not show a check
Of a tint so lustrous meek —
Never such an Ambuscade
As of briar and leaf displayed
For my little damask maid —

I had rather wear her grace
Than an Earl's distinguished face —
I had rather dwell like her
Than be "Duke of Exeter" —
Royalty enough for me
To subdue the Bumblebee.


"PIGMY SERAPHS — GONE ASTRAY —" praises the elegance and beauty of small creatures in nature, comparing them to the allure of human royalty and titles. The poem contrasts the refined charm of these natural entities with the extravagant titles and roles that humans often seek. The speaker expresses a preference for the simple contentment and grace found in nature, emphasizing the value of embracing life's small pleasures.

Critical Analysis

The poem begins by describing the small seraphs (angels) as "gone astray," hinting at their unexpected, elusive presence. The use of the word "pigmy" suggests their small size and delicate nature, contrasting them with the grandeur often associated with angels.

The speaker compares these "pigmy seraphs" to "Velvet people from Vevay" and "Balles from some lost summer day." These descriptions convey the elegance and grace of these small creatures, emphasizing their charm and allure.

The poem introduces the metaphor of bees as an "exclusive Coterie," highlighting their collective nature and the sense of belonging they represent. This metaphor further emphasizes the unique beauty found in small and exclusive groups.

The next stanzas introduce comparisons to human cities such as Paris and Venice, suggesting that even these iconic places cannot match the exquisite beauty of the natural world. The imagery of "belted down with Emerald" and "a tint so lustrous meek" conveys the radiant and subtle qualities of nature's charm.

The poem culminates in the speaker's preference for the "little damask maid" who embodies the beauty of nature. The speaker expresses a desire to "wear her grace" and "dwell like her" rather than aspiring to human titles like an "Earl's distinguished face" or the "Duke of Exeter." The final lines suggest that the beauty and contentment found in nature are "Royalty enough" for the speaker, illustrating the fulfilling simplicity of embracing nature.


  • Beauty in Simplicity: The poem celebrates the exquisite charm of small creatures and nature's subtle beauty, contrasting it with the grandeur and extravagance associated with human titles and roles.
  • Contentment and Fulfillment: The poem reflects on the contentment and joy that can be found in appreciating the natural world and its simple pleasures.
  • Contrasts and Comparisons: The poem utilizes contrasting imagery and metaphors to juxtapose the allure of nature's elegance with the superficiality of human titles and societal roles.


  • Admiration and Reverence: The speaker expresses admiration and reverence for the beauty and charm of small creatures in nature.
  • Preferential Contentment: The speaker expresses a preference for the fulfillment and grace found in nature's simplicity over the pursuit of human titles and status.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The poem uses metaphors to liken small creatures to seraphs, as well as to describe bees as an "exclusive Coterie."
  • Contrast: The poem employs contrasts between nature and human titles , as well as between the allure of small creatures and the superficiality of societal roles.
  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery to depict the beauty and charm of nature's small creatures, as well as the opulence of cities like Paris and Venice.

Discussion Question

How does Emily Dickinson use contrasts between the allure of nature and the superficiality of human titles to convey the theme of beauty in simplicity in the poem "PIGMY SERAPHS — GONE ASTRAY —"?

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