This poem by Emily Dickinson was written around 1863, yet because it deals with the subject of death, it is still as meaningful today as when it was written. Interestingly, the narrator of the poem is describing her own death, and we could imagine a person dying nowadays having a...
This poem by Emily Dickinson was written around 1863, yet because it deals with the subject of death, it is still as meaningful today as when it was written. Interestingly, the narrator of the poem is describing her own death, and we could imagine a person dying nowadays having a similar experience. The poem describes the mourners, the will, and the Fly, each of which we can associate with modern-day deaths.
The mourners are described as having cried themselves out for the present. This created a stillness in the room "like the Stillness in the Air - Between the Heaves of Storm." This compares the mourning to a thunderstorm that comes in waves. Between each downpour is a very silent and still respite. This often happens when a person is dying: One person may break down crying and soon everyone in the room is sobbing. Eventually, all the tears will dry up, and it will become very still--that's what stanzas one and two describe.
Stanza three talks about creating a Last Will and Testament, or a will, in which the person who is going to die specifies who will receive her worldly goods after she has passed away. People still do this today.
The "Fly" is more troublesome. Yes, we have flies today, and they could be in a room where someone is dying. The point, however, is the irony. When something is so overwhelming, so indescribable, talking about something as inconsequential as a fly seems sacrilegious, even disgusting. The poet may have had several things in mind. She may be pointing out the insignificance of our human existence in the face of eternity and the afterlife. She may be pointing out that when our human brains are faced with the immensity of life and death, they stall, and fall back on any piece of reality, no matter how unimportant. She may even be imagining a sound effect of the spirit leaving the body at the moment of death. Any of these interpretations and more are possible. A person who has experienced the death of a loved one can read this poem and connect with the experience in whatever way speaks to him or her.