AD's English Literature : Emily Dickinson’s Vision of ‘Death’ and ‘Eternity’ in “Because I could not stop for Death”

Emily Dickinson’s Vision of ‘Death’ and ‘Eternity’ in “Because I could not stop for Death”


“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 –

Heralded as one of the most gifted American writers, Emily Dickinson’s  poems were struck by her succinct style and the intensity of emotions that the poems contained. In the poem Because I could not stop for Death, the ballad-metre has been used and the poet’s encounter with Death is told like a story. Again, Dickinson’s poems are familiar teaching devices that reveal moral lessons through short and simple stories. Her poem's simplicity lends it a timeless quality. For this reason, Dickinson’s poems hold relevance today in parabolic sense. Dickinson’s poems can also be enigmatic sayings or tales, which obviously contain a message though the precise meaning is anyone's guess. In this poem, Because I Could Not Stop for Death Dickinson focused on themes relating to death, eternity, and love, usually in short four-line stanzas. It may be noted that some of the lines arc rhyming. But the others are not.

Death has been adorned as a princely lover with his Carriage with utmost civility and tenderness. Here is the journey to eternity because here is the   timelessness that follows death. The journey described here is the journey of life in which there is a continuous succession of sights and sounds-- such as the school, the children, the fields, and the setting sun:
“We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –”

While going through these varied experiences of life, we have no time for Death, we cannot ‘stop for death’, yet Death always accompanies us. Death is ‘civil’ or polite as a companion, as it makes no haste. After the poet becomes aware of the presence of Death, however, she puts away both work and entertainments in the contemplation of Death.

 In the two final stanzas, the destination of the journey that is the tomb or the grave is reached. There time has no meaning, hence even centuries spent to the shorter than the day when the poet first became aware of Death’s presence:
“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 –”
The oldest and most stable structural element of Because I could not stop for Death is the shield area of the life and death. It comprises a complex ideology of igneous desires. In most places the shield is overlaid by philosophic burden, mostly of theological, although some areas of younger hopes occur, notably in heavenly lover, the Yamaraja. The lover we find in Because I could not stop for Death offers evidence of ideological drift, indicating that in the spiritual sublime period the death is linked to desire, a great hope incorporating life and afterlife. Because I could not stop for Death   is clearly a relationship between the life and afterlife but the exact meaning of either poem is left up to the individual reader. We can  discuss the many possible readings of the poem. Both the short story and the poet- Death discussion( monologue) seem to indicate that the reader is much like the man at the chariot; there is a meaning in the story for everyone just as there is one chariot to the grave for each person.


Ref: Wikipedia, Encarta, History of English Literature- Albert.
 Now try to find out the Answers of the Following Questions:
   
1.       What tells you that the speaker is a woman?
2.      Why do you think is Death seen as a man?
3.        Why is the roof of the ‘House’ scarcely visible?  
4.      How much time has passed since the House was reached? 
5.      Why does it seem to be shorter than a day? 
6.       How does Emily Dickinson look at Death in Because I could not stop for Death
7.      What is the relationship between ‘Death’ and ‘Eternity’?   

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