Death and Mortality in Poetry
June 11, 2012
Death is a part of life. This is a cliché that has resonated throughout society since the beginning of time. Some hate the thought of dying and some welcome its tender relief, but whatever the feeling towards it Death still comes to everyone eventually. Two poems, in particular, speak of death very differently. In the poem Because I could not stop for Death by Emily Dickinson, Death is a courteous guide to a place of peace and tranquility. However, in Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas, death is something to fight and struggle against as long and as hard as possible until death finally overcomes. Both Dickinson and Thomas paint a picture of the end of life and death by the use of language, rhyme and vivid imagery though their interpretation of death differs greatly. In the poem Because I could not stop for Death, the main character is met by death on an ordinary day of “labor and leisure” (Dickinson 1890), busy with life she had no time to stop, so like a gentleman caller he stopped for her. After death stops for her they start on their way through her town to her grave. It is not until the end of the poem that the main character tells that she has been dead for centuries and the reader realizes that she has been remembering the day she died and how clear those memories are still. In contrast, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Thomas writes about death as an adversary engaged in a continuous war with man. The author believes man should never willingly succumb to death, but should go kicking and screaming into death. Though both poems deal with death, they do so in drastically different ways. Thomas paints death as an enemy while Dickinson shows death as gentle guide to eternity. Thomas’ poem writes about living as well as dying and talks about death in the present tense, dying instead of dead. He also speaks of death in terms of the elderly...
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