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A Science – so the Savants say

A paleontologist reading this poem will immediately see that Emily Dickinson had learned about the work of the French savant Baron Cuvier. Among his many contributions to the field, Cuvier recognized the idea of "correspondence of parts," that is, hooved animals all have blunt teeth for eating vegetation, animals with claws hunt and eat meat, and so forth. Some interpret this poem as critical of science, but it can as easily be read as a positive parallel: as skeletal remains are interpreted by a scientist, a flower can be interpreted as a harbinger of spring.

A science—so the Savants say,

“Comparative Anatomy”—

By which a single bone—

Is made a secret to unfold

Of some rare tenant of the mold,

Else perished in the stone—

So to the eye prospective led,

This meekest flower of the mead

Upon a winter’s day,

Stands representative in gold

Of Rose and Lily, manifold,

And countless Butterfly!