I started Early - Took my Dog -
And visited the Sea -
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me -

And Frigates - in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands -
Presuming Me to be a Mouse -
Aground - upon the Sands -

But no Man moved Me - till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe -
And past my Apron - and my Belt
And past my Bodice - too -

And made as He would eat me up -
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve -
And then - I started - too -

And He - He followed - close behind -
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle - then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl -

Until We met the Solid Town -
No One He seemed to know -
And bowing - with a Mighty look -
At me - the Sea withdrew -

c. 1862                    1929


Here Dickinson gives us a parable of Existential dread. While she initially feels comfortable in her contemplation of the sea, she suddenly realizes how threatening the natural world can be to an isolated individual--how easy to drown and disappear forever. Only when she returns to town, where the distractions of social life mask that recognition, does the threat of the sea withdraw.