This reminds me of Oppen’s “Psalm” when he describes the small beauty of the deer in the wood, “That they are there!” Nature and beauty existing in a moment and he in that moment too. Dickinson is doing something similar by putting herself in a moment of (what Oppen calls “small beauty”): she smiles then sighs when it is too hot, yet the animals must persist in that environment.
Interesting how she describes the animals as “Angels”, but she could also literally be referring to angels too. She has written many times about the separation of humanity from nature and how Eden is closed off for us, yet for the animals Eden does exist in that eternally present moment that animals seem to live in. Yet because of biblical original sin, Eden is barred shut and so it is too for the animals who, once the morning dew evaporates, the sun grows hot and the landscape turns to sand. Eden then may have been an eternal morning of “Dews” and our fall is the “sighing” of the hot sun that parches the flowers.
Her addition of emotion into the description of the animals / angels is clever too. She describes them as “Stooping – plucking – smiling – flying” Which I read, in order, as the deer “stooping” to, as Oppen describes, “tear at the grass” with their “small teeth”, then “plucking” which might be the rabbits, then skipping to the end with the “flying” of the birds. Yet in each stanza, though she repeats this line, the third word changes. First there is “smiling” and this evokes not only a happy contented scene, but is also the emotion of the poet who is watching the “Angels”. Yet in the second stanza she uses “sighing” which not only describes the animals laboring to breath in the heat, but also her own feelings about how the beauty of the Eden-like morning has turned to sand (could read that word as dust, too). In both stanzas she is in the middle of the picture and equates her emotion to that of how nature feels and relates to her ongoing exploration of humanity’s relationship with nature vs. where the soul goes after death (as in leaving nature behind, which for Emily seems to be a tough decision).