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, my 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; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

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Interpretation of the poem
I would personify death like the horse carriage driver because it is a good metaphor for how death sneaks up on you and you canít stop your own death. People pretty much ignore their own deaths their entire lives, they wonít stop for death, but when theyíre old they canít help that death is going to stop for them. The word that makes the first stanza ironic is ďkindlyĒ because people donít usually think of kindness when they think of death, they usually think of bad, evil, etc. The irony of the poem is shown when the speaker starts acting polite because death acts kindly to her when death is killing her, so its ironic to think that such a horrible thing could be nice. The things the carriage passes are a school, fields of gazing grain, and the setting sun. Death is taking her away from life, which is warmth and light, to take her into death, which is cold and darkness. The nearly buried house is a metaphor. The house is her life, once it is all buried she is dead. The part sticking up is showing she is still alive, but nearly gone. The nearly buried house could also be literal, which in that case it would be a grave. The buried part is the coffin and the part sticking out of the ground is the headstone.

Understanding of Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson was obviously a very intelligent poet for her time. Her poems were always either about love or death. This poem deals with death. She was able to use metaphors to explain what she was writing about and help you to understand it higher than just a literal level. Half of Emily Dickinson's poems may have had dark and gloomy themes, but they were so good that it didn't matter, people still enjoyed reading. Her love poems were very beautiful as well. These are just a few reasons why Emily Dickinson is one of America's greatest poets.


John Leslie
12/11/01
English 5-6
Period 5
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