In these two poems, Blake's ''London" & Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for death, how do the two poets address death?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem "London" by William Blake, the poet is addressing a different form of death than that explored by Emily Dickenson in "Because I could not stop for Death." The only subject in Blakes poem specifically tagged with Death is marriage, whereas Emily Dickenson is talking about her own death and this is very personal to her. William Blake's reference to marriage/death is "marriage-hearse." It seems as if he is saying that the filthy squalor of crowded London city is death to Love - that nothing can be goood, pure, innocent or happy there. Even a street girl's or mother's voice to a newborn child is deafening and strident, aggressive and shrill. Blake hears this deathly sound in every call, market, announcement - and ban (some readers may pick up wedding ban here.) The poem is a dark, desolate and fatalistic look at what dies in the human soul in impoverished city life.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Blake is dealing with the universal issues of poverty and bondsmanship in his poem. He reveals vignettes of the desparate and bleak society which London had become in his lifetime. He deals with the death of the soul as well as the body: lamenting the moral and spiritual decline caught up in the cycle of greed and poverty which exemplified the city at that time. His clever use of the metaphor of syphilis, the  “youthful Harlot’s curse” perfectly embodies the physical and moral corruption of the society and its infectious, all-pervasive influence.

Death in Dickinson's poem is far more gentle, chivalrous and peaceful. The metaphor here is of a kind gentleman - a profound contras to Blake's use of metaphor. Death here is kindly, though persistent. The implication is that the narrator meets a timely death, unlike the woeful figures in 'London'.

mkcapen1 | Student

William Blake's poem "London" is a very negative and pessimistic view of life and death.  He describes the woes of mankind, and his visits through the streets of London are marked by war, poverty, and emotional suffering.

"Because I could not stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson paints a very different picture.  She refers to death as being kindly and civil.  She talks about the pleasant things she sees upon her journey to eternity;

We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – 
We passed the Setting Sun –

Dickinson's poem is more optimistic and the mood of the poem offers a sense of peace.

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