Saturday, February 22, 2014

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away                              
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove  
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –       
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –

-Emily Dickinson

In this poem, Dickinson personifies Death. He comes to pick up the speaker and they go on a simple ride through the town. Regular things are seen, such as children playing, fields, and the sun setting. As it gets dark, it gets chilly out. The speaker is not prepared for this kind of weather. Near the end of the poem, the speaker says that this all happened centuries ago. The speaker is already dead and this was no ordinary ride. The speaker was remembering her own death, and the ride she took to the afterlife. Something that once seemed like an ordinary ride was actually about a dead woman taking a ride with death. She ends up seeing her own burial spot and rides of with Death himself. Dickinson has spoken of death before, but this a new way to do. She speaks of Death as a person, instead of an something that happens. In this case, Death is a gentleman that came for the speaker. She describes Death in such a way that there seems to be no reason to be afraid. Death is kind and moves slowly. This could mean that the speaker died slowly, possibly of natural causes. Along with death, this poem also mentions the afterlife. The speaker is telling the story of her own death centuries later, in the afterlife. Dickinson shows that even if death happens, it doesn't necessarily mean that someone's life ends. Her use of metaphors and imagery makes it possible to believe that life continues on even when the physical body is done with.  Death doesn't mean the end to Dickinson. It is just one more step closer to the afterlife, where things are better.

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