English 10, Period 2
3 March 2015
Eternal Life After Death
Emily Dickinson wrote “Because I could not stop for Death-” in 1862 but was published in 1890, after her death. This lyrical poem consists of six stanzas of four lines each (6 quatrains). The poem varies between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimester. There is no consistent rhyme scheme. The major theme of the poem is the eternal life after death.
To begin with, the main topic of this poem is human death. Dickinson wrote this during a brief moment of happiness she felt after depression. She constantly fought with depression as a child and it continued into her adulthood. However, she was able to change her view on death and this poem shows what her beliefs were about death. Dickinson did not title any of her poems so the title given to this poem is just the first line. The reason she never titled her work was because she never meant to publish any of her poetry. In the poem, she repeats the phrase, “We passed,” and this might be a clue to the reader that she has passed away. This repetition allows the readers to infer that the speaker of the poem is a spirit or ghost reminiscing of her past.
Undoubtedly, the speaker of the poem is dead but she seems to be very tranquil about it. She personifies death as a gentleman who takes her for a relaxing ride on a carriage literally through memory lane. In stanza one, Death picks her up in a carriage with Immortality as another passenger. In stanza two, the speaker seems to be enjoying the ride because it replaced the stress and the labor that she constantly endured in her lifetime. Stanza three begins to tell the story of her life. The first and second line, “We passed the school, where children strove / At recess, in the ring,” represents her childhood and she sees herself playing at school. Then, it goes onto her adulthood as she and Death passed the “gazing grains”. Finally, the last line of stanza three, “We passed the setting sun,” symbolizes the time near her death, when her life was coming to an end. In stanza four, the speaker questions herself about who passed who. Conclusively, it was Death that passed her and the tone changes from reminiscence to gloomy because their final destination was her grave. In stanza five, they arrive at her grave and the spirit misses her alive-self. Stanza six, the last stanza, confirms that the speaker died centuries ago but she still remembers every aspect and every detail of her life as if it was just yesterday.
Without a doubt, this poem contains many beautifully-used poetic devices. The entire poem is an example of personification because Death is described as a gentleman. Alliteration is apparent at the ends of lines 11 and 12, “gazing grain” and “setting sun”. The last stanza has an example of hyperbole because it states that the centuries that have passed seem shorter than days. Last but certainly not least, this poem has so many great examples of imagery. Descriptions such as “Fields of gazing grain” and “Children strove at recess, in the ring” really implants visual imagery into the readers’ minds. Stanza four has sensory imagery with the use of the words “quivering” and “chill”.
In the end, no one can stop Death’s visit but this poem illustrates a positive point of view of dying. The speaker portrays the eternity of life after death and it almost gives death a welcoming invitation. Inevitably, death will eventually come for everyone but how one views it makes all the difference.