Because I Could Not Stop For Death || Summary and Analysis

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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 labour 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 passed 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.

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

Summary and Analysis

Introduction:

      The poem 'Because I could not stop for Death', written around 1863, tries to capture mortal experience in terms of immortality. The idea of death is boldly treated without any of the emotions of fear, anxiety or pain that usually accompany it. Death is personified as a gentle friend who is taking the poet on a carriage ride to eternity. 'The second passenger in the carriage is immortality. The life after death is seen as an eternal journey. The image of the carriage and the driver is highly convincing. The use of the metaphor governs the structure of the poem. The poet anticipates her own death in this poem. She speculates about the meaning of death as well as the life after death. At the apparent level, the poet describes a funeral cession proceeding to the graveyard, but at the deeper level it deals with a spiritual journey to the eternity.

Summary:

      The poetess shows that nobody has the time to think about death in his life. But it does not mean that he can escape death which is linked with man's life on earth. Death marks the end of man's earthly existence. Being a busy poetess, Dickinson has no time to ponder over death. She gives up her work and leisure to board the chariot which is being driven by Death to eternity in the company of immortality.

      The poetess has observed the chariot being driven by Death in a leisurely way. She has given up her work and social commitments to submit herself before the Will of Death. She is perfectly at ease in the company of Death and does not suffer from any sense of loss or pain, She is completely bowled over by her civility.

      Stanza III shows the picture of the chariot which passed by a school. It was he recess time and the children were busy playing in the school playground. They had hardly finished their lessons yet. Then the chariot passed by the fields filled with crops. Grains were constantly staring at the occupants or the chariot. Finally, the chariot passed by the setting sun.

      Stanza IV deals with the atmosphere prevailing at the time of the progression of the spiritual journey. The setting sun passed by them. It was very cold and wet. The poetess felt this chilly cold because was wearing gossamer for her gown anda thin cloth for her scarf.

      Stanza V further records the passage of the chariot which stopped before a house. It looked like a bulging piece of earth. The root of this house was hardly visible. The cornice of the house was at the same level as that of the earth. This marks the end of the life on earth.

      Stanza VI shows that the poetess has finally realized that she had the inkling of immortality at the very commencement of the spiritual voyage. The very march of horses was a significant clue for the start of this spiritual quest. Death has finally paved the way for eternity.

Interpretation and Critical Analysis:

Personification of Death:

      Emily Dickinson personifies death in this poem. Death is presented in a realistic manner in it. She dramatizes the sensations of dying, the response of the mourners, the death-like silent room, the church services, and even sub-conscious minds of the spectators in this poem. Dickinson's richest personifications of death are those which present him as a 'gentleman Caller' or a 'suitor' who is known for his remarkable civility.

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

      Here the Gentleman symbolizes death. The speaker is being accompanied by immortality which can give her the vision of immortality in this spiritual quest. It is a journey beyond time and space.

Acceptance of Death:

      Death is directly linked with man's life on earth and man must accept death without any protest or resentment. Death is the end of man's life on earth. Man must submit himself before the Will and the Authority of God. Dickinson is perfectly at ease in the company of Death which is taking her to eternity. She praises death for her matchless civility.

Death Leads to Immortality:

      Dickinson believes in the continuity of life. Death is not the end of life because ite is continued after man's exit from the material world. Dickinson associates Eternity with continued placelessness. Finally, the vision of immortality is short-lived and the speaker fails to hold it forever. The 'Horses Heads' block the speaker's vision of immortality and she cannot see beyond. The vision of immortality is finally replaced by the vision of death.

Religious Implications:

      The speaker's journey may not be solitary, not because she is accompanied by the abstract figures of death and immortality but perhaps rather because she is accompanied by a lost lover here personified as death. The carriage passes the various scenes and ages or life, and then 'We passed the Setting sun' and 'Or rather He passed Us'. To pass the setting Sun of course is to go beyond death to a heaven of immortality.

Explanation with Reference to the Context:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

      The above lines have been taken from the poem 'Because I could not stop for Death' by Emily Dickinson. The poet presents death not as abstraction but a concrete reality. Here death is personified as a lover which frees man from the troubles of the material life. It leads him to eternity. The poem describes a spiritual journey that takes a person to eternity.

      In these lines the poetess says that a man never bothers to think about death in his life. Man's fate is linked with death which comes to all sooner or later in life. Death is not the end because life is continued after death. Death is unavoidable and man has to give up his work or rest without any notice. The poetess sat in the chariot of death. There are only three passengers in the chariot-the poetess, death and immortality. Death is occupying the driver's seat. The poem is rich in personifications and symbolism. Death and Immortality have been personified as two gentlemen.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too
For his civility.

      These lines have been taken from the poem 'Because I could not stop for Death' by Emily Dickinson. The poetess presents the picture of a carriage driven by Death. Death is presented as a lover who is being carried to eternity by Immortality - another occupant of the carriage. Death frees a man from the material and carries him to the spiritual world. It leads him to eternity.

      In these lines the poetess says that one day Death paid a personal visit to her. She had no inkling of death at that point of time. Death took the poetess for a ride in his chariot which was being driven in leisurely manner. The poetess says that she had to abandon her worldly activities to accompany death. She also gave up all the labour and leisure for undertaking this spiritual journey. She did so in order to reciprocate the courtesy of Death. It means that all the activities of man come to an end with the arrival of Death. She submits before Death as a mark of respect for Her. Thus we find that Death is presented as a gentle friend, not a horrible force.

We passed the school where children strove
At recess in the ring
We passed the fields of gazing grain
We passed the setting sun.

      These lines have been from the poem 'Because I could not stop for Death' by Emily Dickinson. They refer to the continuity of life after dearth. They describe the passage of the chariot which is gradually heading towards eternity. It is driven by Death which carries the poetess and Immortality. The said lines describe the course of the journey in a realistic manner.

      In these lines the poetess describes the spiritual journey after death in concrete terms. Death is personified as a lover and the poetess as the victim of death. The Chariot driven by Death passed by a school. The children were busy playing during the period of recess. They had hardly completed their day's work yet. Then the Chariot was seen passing through the fields full of crops. Grains were closely looking at the strange riders. Finally, the chariot gradually passed by the setting sun.

      The poetess imagination carries her into her past times. She realizes that the journey of life finally leads to death, She revisits her past which consisted of her childhood, the rains and the setting sun. It is an imaginary journey which unfolds before her the childhood, youth and the old age of the poetess. Thus the said lines point to the journey to immortality.

Or rather- He passed Us-
The dew grew quivering and chill,
For gossamer, my gown,
My tipper, only tulle.

      These lines have been taken from the poem 'Because I could not stop for Death' by Emily Dickinson. The poem is known for its spiritual colourings. It shows the extension of life after death. It ultimately paves the way for immortality.

      In these lines the poetess describes the course of the spiritual journey. She observed that the setting of the sun passed by them. With the setting of the sun, the air grew very cold and wet. She experienced extreme cold because she was wearing only gossamer for her gown and a thin piece of cloth for her scarf. The setting sun is a very suggestive symbol of approaching old age. The poetess seemed to be anticipating her own death as the spiritual journey progressed.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground
The roof was scarcely visible
The cornice in the ground.

      These lines have been taken from the poem 'Because I could not stop for Death' by Emily Dickinson. The poetess introduces her concept of immortality in this spiritual poem. She further shows that life is continued after death. Death frees man from the earthly life and carries him into eternity.

      In these lines the poetess observes that the chariot stopped before a house during the course of its spiritual voyage. The house was just like a swelling of the ground. The root of this house was quite invisible and its cornice was at the level or the ground. The house marks the end of the span of life on earth. Death is described as a Gentleman who is driving the chariot to eternity in the company of Immortality Death is like the bridegroom and the poetess is his bride.

Since then 'tis centuries; and yet
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity

      These lines have been taken from the poem 'Because I could not stop for Death', by Emily Dickinson. It is a poem in which the poetess comes very close to affirming her faith in Immortality. Death is not the end because life is continued after death. Moreover, death leads to eternity.

      In these lines the poetess concludes that centuries have passed since the end of the said journey. And yet each of those centuries appear to be shorter than a day before. The poetess says that even at the time of the ride she had the inkling of being taken to eternity. It appears that she has almost lost the passage of time. For a dead man, time either flies very fast or moves very slowly. Now she experiences the life of eternity. Finally, she comes to the conclusion that her soul is immortal and enjoys a perpetual existence. Death is therefore not the end because life is extended after death.

Annotations:

"Labour' - work. 'He' - stands for death. 'Carriage' - chariot. 'Immortality' - deathlessness. 'Labour' - worldly work. 'for his civility' - an act of courtesy, 'Scarcely' - hardly. 'Strove' - struggle 'Quivering' - shaking. 'Gossamer' - a thin fine fabric. 'Tippet' - a scarf. 'Tulle' - a fine net material made of silk. 'Paused' - stopped. 'Swelling' - rising\emerging. 'Scarcely visible' - hardly seen. 'Cornice' - an ornamental moulding of a wall below the ceiling 'Mound' - a heap of earth. 'Cornice' - the invisible of the coffin lid. 'Surmised' - guessed. 'Eternity' - timelessness.

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