Please give a summary of "Because I could not stop for Death."

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem is based around a central metaphor which attempts to domesticate or make less frightening the central human experience of death. In this poem therefore it is important to realise that death is compared to an unexpected ride in a carriage. The first stanza opens with death stopping "kindly" for the speaker and how the carriage drove "slowly" as death "knew no haste." The speaker comments that she was patient as well, as she had "put away" her leisure and her work for death's pleasure. The journey of the carriage is mentioned, as they pass the school, then fields and the setting sun. Finally, the poem ends with the recognition of the speaker that the carriage had been heading "toward Eternity" all the time, which she hadn't realised. Clearly the irony of the last stanza concerns the way in which that life is actually a journey towards death, and the speaker appears to be unprepared for this central fact:

Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses' heads

Were towards Eternity--

This poem then is rightfully famous for the novel way in which it presents death. Death in this poem is not something to be feared, but an inevitable occurrence that we must accept and acknowledge.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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