Comparing a horse with a train - Emily Dickinson

First Emily Dickinson's poem, then some commentary ...

I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step

Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare

To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill

And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop--docile and omnipotent--
At its own stable door. 

Commentary on I like to see it lap the miles

This is a representative poem about a train, now well known as the "iron horse". The train is so powerful, it laps around the valleys and mountains, and looks "down upon" those surrounding shacks by the roads as it whizzes past. It complains loudly all the time when in motion. Still it is in control ... it is as punctual as the stars roaming the skies and stops at its designated station. The train is omnipotent, but docile when stopped. 

The rhyming is not perfect in this poem like in some other Emily Dickinson poems, and phrases don't necessarily end at the end of each line of the poem. She focuses on one image -- comparison of a horse and a train -- and really describes it throughout the poem. This is how meditation is done through a poem. 


prodigious: enormous;
supercilious: condescending, arrogant, proud;
Boanerges: a name Christ gave to the disciples James and John, meaning "sons of thunder"; also, a loud preacher or orator;
docile: obedient, submissive;
omnipotent: all powerful.
shanties: roughly built, often ramshackle cabins; shacks.

Note her use of sounds:

"like," "lap," "lick"
"supercilious," "shanties," "sides"
"horrid, hooting"
"star," "stop," and "stable"
"docile" and "door"
Other repeated sounds:
"stop," "prodigious," "supercilious," and "pile"

More info on Boanerges
1. (Christian Religious Writings / Bible) New Testament a nickname applied by Jesus to James and John in Mark 3:17
2. a fiery preacher, esp one with a powerful voice
[from Hebrew benē reghesh sons of thunder]

Bo·a·ner·ges   [boh-uh-nur-jeez] Show IPA
1.a surname given by Jesus to James and John. Mark 3:17.
2.(used with a singular verb) a vociferous preacher or orator.

Mark 3:17
And James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James, and he gave them the name Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder.

Luke 9:54
When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

The Ironclad Beetle 

This reminds me of what I was recently reading about: Ironclad Beetle.  This is a representative poem about a train, now well known as the "iron horse".  Scientists are saying how we can learn from the natural adaptations of this beetle and make better airplanes.

From CBS News: 

Meet the diabolical ironclad beetle, which can survive being run over by a car

Scientists are unraveling the mystery of a bug with one of the coolest names in the animal kingdom: the diabolical ironclad beetle. 

Phloeodes diabolicus has one of the toughest natural exoskeletons scientists have ever seen. According to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature, the insect's armor is so durable, few predators have successfully made a meal out of it — and it can even survive getting run over by a car.

This is a bug that scientists famously need to drill a hole into before they can stick a pin through it. 

"The ironclad is a terrestrial beetle, so it's not lightweight and fast but built more like a little tank," lead author David Kisailus, a UCI professor of materials science and engineering, said in a news release. "That's its adaptation: It can't fly away, so it just stays put and lets its specially designed armor take the abuse until the predator gives up."

In compression tests, researchers found the beetle can withstand a force of about 39,000 times its body weight — the equivalent of a 200-pound man enduring the weight of 7.8 million pounds. 

So, how does the seemingly indestructible bug manage to survive against all odds? 

Scientists have found that the shell of the bug, which is native to desert habitats in the Southwestern U.S., has evolved to protect it. Specifically, its elytra — the blades that open and close on the wings of aerial beetles — have fused together to act as a solid shield for the beetle, which can't fly. 

Analysis of the elytra revealed that it's made of layers of chitin, a fibrous material, and a protein matrix. Its exoskeleton contains about 10% more protein by weight than that of a lighter, flying beetle.

Under compression, the jigsaw puzzle-like structure of the elytra doesn't snap as expected, but rather, fractures slowly.

"When you break a puzzle piece, you expect it to separate at the neck, the thinnest part," Kisailus said. "But we don't see that sort of catastrophic split with this species of beetle. Instead, it delaminates, providing for a more graceful failure of the structure."

Scientists believe that understanding just what makes the iron beetle so tough will have practical applications for humans, too. Kisailus said that new, extra-strong materials based on the bug's characteristics will drastically improve the durability of aircraft, automobiles and more.

Kisailus and his team mimicked the structure of the bug's exoskeleton using carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. The result was both stronger and tougher than current aerospace designs. 

"This study really bridges the fields of biology, physics, mechanics and materials science toward engineering applications, which you don't typically see in research," Kisailus said. "Luckily, this program, which is sponsored by the Air Force, really enables us to form these multidisciplinary teams that helped connect the dots to lead to this significant discovery."