What is the house that is nearly buried?  "Because I could not stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In her poem, "Because I could not stop for Death," Emily Dickinson uses the metaphor of a house for the grave:

We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground--

The Roof was scarcely visible--

The Cornice--in the Ground--

This poem about death captures the most awesome and inevitable of human experiences, death, with a playfulness and wit, rather than with morbidity.  Dying is compared in an extended metaphor to an unexpected ride in a horse-drawn carriage.  The unusual way in which Dickinson uses time as well as the blithe tone--

he kindly stopped for me....

He knew no haste

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too 

For His Civility

--that is much at odds with the subject of the narrative of the poem makes this a unique verse. 

Time is suspended as it often seems to be in deeply personal experiences of people.  For instance, Dickinson explains that she and the driver went slowly, passing fields, or the sun passes them.  Then, centuries pass, and finally, they reach Eternity. 

Also present in Dickinson's poem is an irony as the deadly final "ride" is compared to a leisurely and civil one, the grave a house complete with cornices.

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