Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson

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—

Some thoughts …

on the Poet:  Emily Dickinson (1830-1885) was born into a prominent Amherst family in Massachusetts. A bright student, her education was interrupted by her frequent bouts of ill-health. A recluse by choice, she was noted for her small eccentricities, like her preference for wearing white. During her lifetime she wrote over 1,700 poems, none of which she submitted for publication. She had instructed her sister, Vinnie, to burn her writing on her death. The world owes the sister thanks for disregarding this final wish.

on this poem: The structure of this poem is simple – six stanzas of four lines each. Here, Death is not something to be feared; rather it’s personified as a courteous gentleman calling on a lady. The companion to both the Poet and Death is Immortality. 

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

The passage of life is unhurried, and in their journey, they pass the scenes of childhood, maturity, and old age (Stanza 3: the images of playing children, ripening grain, and setting sun). Yet the day is drawing to a close, the human body is too fragile an attire to withstand the onslaught of time (Stanza 4: the reference to the delicate garments clothing the poet). Stanza 5 refers to the final resting place – the tomb. Stanza 6 evokes the poet’s awareness of both physical mortality, and of eternity which is her true destination.

on a personal note: What I enjoy about Dickinson is the simple language that couches the most profound thoughts. Her originality comes from the singular perspective harmoniously wedded to her unique imagery.

Dickinson was unorthodox when it came to religion. She rejected the more rigorous views of the time and society she lived in, and preferred to seek Divinity in Nature and beauty. Her calm acceptance of Death as the pilot to immortality conveys a maturity that comes with a deeply spiritual inclination.

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