I like to see it lap the Miles —

by Elouise


How’s your imagination? Here’s a riddle from Emily Dickinson. Can you guess the answer?  

I like to see it lap the Miles –
And lick the Valleys up –
And stop to feed itself at Tanks –
And then – prodigious step 

Around a Pile of Mountains –
And supercilious peer
In Shanties – by the sides of Roads –
And then a Quarry pare 

To fit its Ribs
And crawl between
Complaining all the while
In horrid – hooting stanza –
Then chase itself down Hill – 

And neigh like Boanerges
Then – punctual as a Star
Stop – docile and omnipotent
At its own stable door – 

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995 

Children’s version found in Emily Dickinson, Poetry for Young People
Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, editor; Chi Chung, illustrator
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2008

Several years ago I visited a nearby children’s bookshop, looking for books to give my grandchildren. And wouldn’t you know it–I also found a book of Emily’s poems to give myself. I love it.

The book includes an interesting, not too long overview of Emily’s life, written in language that would appeal to children of most ages. The collection has 36 poems, including several riddle poems like the one above. Each poem has a delightful illustration in full color. The pages are spacious, and the layouts couldn’t be more inviting. 

Some of Emily’s punctuation and vocabulary has been changed—a common issue with many editions of her poems. However, for an older child or young teen, this shouldn’t matter if the goal is to introduce young people to Emily’s lively imagination about the world in which she lives. And, I might add, a bit of challenging vocabulary. 

I have the paperback edition. If it’s the same version offered now, it’s far superior to normal paperbacks. The cover is sturdy, made of flexible-not-flimsy card stock. And the price is right. 

Even better, this series includes a number of other well-known poets. Fortunately, you can read all about Emily’s book and see other titles in the series right here 

Did you get the riddle yet? If not, here’s a tiny hint:


What do I like about this poem? Emily’s cadence and vocabulary evoke an adventure that appeals to my sense of sight, sound, smell and taste. She also stirs up memories and longing to relive my own great adventures in travel. At the end, I’m caught by her reference to a Star and a stable door. They remind me, whether intended or not, of Christmas.

What do you think about when you read this poem?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 December 2016
Book cover found at amazon.com
Clue photo found at bloggingdickinson.blogspot.com