There is no Frigate like a Book
by Emily Dickinson
Modes of Transportation
This whole poem is kind of a growing pile of transportation-related metaphorical language. The central idea is a simple one: books carry us places – so do boats, horses, roads, and chariots. Ta-da! You've basically figured out this whole poem. However, this simple explanation doesn't do justice to how charming, lighthearted, and fun this poem is. By piling on the transportation images, the speaker gets us to think about different types of journeys we can go on, just as there are all kinds of different books we can read, and different imaginary trips we can take.
- Line 1-2: The poem begins with a simile comparing a book to a frigate, otherwise known as a ship.
- Line 3: We immediately get another transportation-related simile, this time comparing the written page to a "courser," or a horse.
- Line 4: Here the speaker follows up on line 3's comparison of the page of poetry to a horse with a touch of personification, when she refers to "prancing Poetry." We know that poetry can't really prance, though animals and people can. This is also a sly play on words. "Prancing" also makes us think of the metrical "feet" that make up a poetic line (see the section on "Form and Meter" for more on this).
- Line 5-8: Next, we get an extended metaphor that starts with the idea of a toll road. The "Traverse," or journey, that the reader takes doesn't cost anything, and thus is "Without oppress of Toll" (line 6). For this reason, the "chariot" that carries us on these imaginary voyages is "frugal," or cheap.