Study Guide

The Tuft of Flowers Butterfly

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In the poem, the speaker finds a butterfly in the sky. No, this isn't Reading Rainbow. (Though that is a solid show.) When the butterfly finds that its favorite flower's been cut down, it's a reminder to the speaker how alone he is in the world. Not to worry, though, because things are looking up for this bug. It soon finds the titular tuft of flowers, as does the speaker. And the world looks very different to the speaker once that happens. In this way, the butterfly's fortunes symbolize our speaker's outlook on the nature of life.

  • Lines 11-14: The butterfly is bewildered ("'wildered" is an abbreviation), confused. We can't blame it really. It's come in search of a "flower of yesterday's delight," but that's been mowed down. What if someone came to your favorite hangout and cut it down? You'd be pretty confused too, the next time you showed up.
  • Lines 15-18: The butterfly is looking pretty pathetic in these lines. It circles around, looking for the chopped flower, and then it flies far away and back to the speaker. It seems exhausted by the effort ("on tremulous wing")—not unlike the speaker, who's asking questions with no answers.
  • Lines 21-22: What's all this, then? It looks like the butterfly's discovered some new flowers after all. The speaker notices the bug's discovery, and this sets in motion a whole 180 turn in his outlook on life.
  • Lines 31-32: The butterfly's discovery of the flowers is the speaker's discovery of a message: we're not all alone in the world, after all. What a helpful creature this bug turned out to be.

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