Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
- That evening, Laura and Lizzie head down to the brook to fill their "pitchers" with water.
- Lizzie is calm, or "placid," as usual, but Laura's all hot and bothered, like "a leaping flame."
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie pluck'd purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: "The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags.
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep."
But Laura loiter'd still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.
- After they've gathered the water they need, Lizzie pauses to pick some flowers ("flags" are a kind of flower).
- Lizzie also takes the time to notice the beautiful sunset – it makes the distant "crags," or cliffs, glow.
- Then Lizzie reminds Laura that it's time to go in. They're the last "maidens" out, and it's not good for young women to loiter by the brook after sunset.
- Even the "squirrel[s]," "beasts and birds" have all gone in for the night.
- Laura's not interested in the sunset, the flowers, or the "beasts and birds." She can't see the details Lizzie appreciates anymore.
- Laura "loiters" along the stream, making up excuses for staying. She says the "bank" of the brook is too "steep" to climb back up with the pitcher of water.