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Interestingly, Emily Dickinson's treatment of death in her poem is not the fearsome Puritanical treatment typical of that spoken of in the New England churches of the poet's time, a somber one in an era in which the young died frequently. Instead, it is metaphysical, a style characterized by (1)wit, (2) a blithe tone, and (3) conceits, far-fetched similes or metaphors. For, dying is compared to an unexpected carriage ride with a very civil gentleman; moreover, this is the only simple element in a poem that develops its effect through the use of irony, a gradual comprehension, and a blithe tone that is at odds with the somber subject of the narrative, but characteristic of metaphysical poetry.
Since her treatment of the poem is metaphysical, Miss Dickinson also employs time in an unusual way; for, time is purely a man-made concept subject to alteration by the mind. This odd expression of time, then, connotes the sensations of the spirit in which there is no need for haste:
We slowly drove--He knew no hast
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility--
And, yet eternity feels "shorter than the Day" Death first stopped for her. A most imaginative poem, "Because I could not stop for Death" treats a somber subject in a most intriguing manner as it holds no terror for the speaker--a most metaphysical treatment, indeed..
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