Poetic Reflections on Mortality and Ephemerality

Topics: Emily Dickinson, Poetry, The Emily Dickinson Journal Pages: 6 (2100 words) Published: May 15, 2013
Poetic Reflections on Mortality and Ephemerality

Have you ever hypothetically pondered the details of your own fatality? Everyone covets a bit of certainty that not many realities allow, but mortality -while a glum concept- is a definite fate we will all ultimately encounter in our respective lifetimes. “Nothing is more predictable than death. Each of us will die without any need to take adventuresome risks.” (Kelly, 1986). This is likely the reason prolific poets Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost have created quite similar themed poems using dissimilar imaginative slants in which they optimistically convey the topic of human transience. Death is a disheartening, tragic matter that not very many individuals readily wish to discuss. Because ephemerality is, however, an extremely ordinary notion to countless expressive artists, it is vital to notice the literary elements these renowned authors applied which set such works apart from less potent pieces. The symbolism, tone, assonance, rhythm, and other literary techniques behind the elegies “Nothing Gold Can Stay” (Frost, 1969) and “Because I could not stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893) fervently beg for further exploration. No matter which approach authors apply to such deviations, one truth remains; the amount of life contained in the works by Frost and Dickinson is somewhat ironic to say the least. If you envision the scenery described in literary pieces you read as if you are a participating, fictional character, you exceptionally possess “The human power that shapes artistic expression...” (Clugston, 2010 a). Put in simpler terms, you clearly have a vivid imagination! Prodigious writers can and will effortlessly incorporate such imagery into their work by imploring the implicit values of society and culture(s). “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost (1969) is unquestionably far from the exception as he connects the way leaves grow, change, and die to our eventual demise with ease. Frost wrote, “Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold.” (Frost, 1969). With the introduction of this allusive writing technique, he develops a clear yet slightly ambiguous mental picture for his readers to envisage. Of course, we know nature is not a person nor does have hands in which it could literally grasp a color. Hence, the meaning of Robert’s words is symbolic and figurative. Sure, Mr. Frost could very well have written something resembling “Beings age like leaves change colors.” Instead, this brilliant poet was aware of the fact that generating embodiment versus the aforementioned simile delivers the most enticing reading experience to the audience.

In “Because I could not stop for Death” (Dickinson, 1893), the author similarly dishes out a full serving of powerful metaphors making this another comparable aspect to personification found in Frosts’ poem. At the very beginning, Emily Dickinson refers to unescapable, human cessation as a chivalrous gentleman when she states, “Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me;” (Dickinson, 1893). The author is actually being extremely facetious as a deliberate, artistic maneuver in order to give life to the darkest of subjects. She selects to represent passing away in a more graceful process. It is a steady flowing motif continuing throughout the body of this work to form a concise, elucidating theme. “From centuries beyond the grave, the narrator describes the peaceful process of her passing, in which Death is personified and escorts her in his carriage. During the leisurely ride, she passes many ordinary sights: a school house, fields--but finally realizes that the ride will last for all eternity.” (Chen & Aull, 1993). Dickinson’s apparent intention in this poem is depiction via exemplification. Her language is a quintessential representation of an allegory with more thought provocation than verity. Again, readers should prepare themselves to observe a nonliteral or rhetorical...
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