These are interpretive questions. Please add quotations when answering the questions and detail your answers.
1. In his poem "Memento Mori," Billy Collins uses a simile to compare a lamp to an "old servant" who will join the "small circle of mourners" at his funeral. Why does he make this comparison? What does it suggest about his view of his death?
2. In "Because I could not stop for Death –," Emily Dickinson writes, "He kindly stopped for me." What or—more aptly—who is Dickinson comparing death to? What does this comparison suggest about her attitude toward death?
3. Many of the lines in Dickinson's "I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –" deal with the serious, spiritual aspects of dying. The fly is an interpretation of a somber, spiritual scene, during which the speaker is giving away her "Assignable" portion. This interruption is important in that it leads the speaker to feel "uncertain." Given the final lines of the poem, what is the speaker "uncertain" about?
4. When the speaker of "I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –" says that "the Windows failed," it's clear that she's not talking about literal windows; she's using a metaphor. What do you think "the Windows" stand for? Why is this an appropriate metaphor?
5. Like a few of the other poets we will read in this unit, Dylan Thomas refers to death as "that good night." Why do you think night is such a common metaphor for death? Why do you think Thomas calls death a "good night," especially since he is urging his audience to resist it?
6. If Robert Frost's "After Apple-Picking" is an extended metaphor for death, what does apple-picking represent? And what, then, is the significance of lines 27–31?
For I have had too muchOf apple-picking: I am overtiredOf the great harvest I myself desired.There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
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