Sunday, October 28, 2007

Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson

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 played
At wrestling in a ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew 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 but a mound.

Since then ’t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.
--Emily Dickinson

I often read what other people have to say about a poem before deciding what to write about it. I've found that I don't always know what it is about the poem that I like--only that I like it. Reading analysis helps me to decide whether it's the things that other people mention, or something else entirely that drew me to the poem that day. I also find that reading analysis helps me to see things in other poems (for instance--my comments on the meter in the Shakespeare poem the other day were all from my own head rather than rephrasing what I had found other people saying).

As I was looking for something to say about this poem, I stumbled on a site with an interesting way of showing some of the poetic devices visually using different font effects. It's something that you may want to look at if you're more visually oriented.

I had often read this poem, and liked its feel of calm acceptance of Death, but I really didn't ever pay much attention to the symbols she uses other than the obvious one of Death as a gentlemen caller taking her on a carriage ride that turns out to be much longer than she expected. She's also got a stanza where she shows all of life (childhood -- in the schoolyard, maturity--the grain, and old age--the setting sun). For a time, she's uncomfortable, feeling the cold and damp in what seems more appropriate clothing for a wedding than a funeral, but then she comes to see the grave (mound) as a homey place.

I've liked Emily Dickinson's work on principle ever since I found out she was from Amherst (even if it is the wrong one), but it's only since I've been paying attention to the mechanics and analysis of poetry that I really see what makes her work so enduring.


  1. thanks, this really helped me with my school project

  2. Thanks!!it helped me too with my project.this is probably the most convincing image on this poem.