woman in repose floating through the air surrounded by ghosts

Because I could not stop for Death—

by Emily Dickinson

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“Because I Could Not Stop For Death — He Kindly Stopped For Me”

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Context: Although a vast number of poems on the subject of death have been written, Emily Dickinson, with her amazingly fresh insight into all the conditions of the human heart and mind, found a new approach to what would seem to be a shop-worn theme. Her description of the coming of Death is not melodramatic nor even dramatic: death merely comes whether we wish his presence or not. But in this poem he comes in the form of a courteous gentleman taking a lady for a pleasant, leisurely drive in a carriage late on a summer afternoon. They drive through the village, through the fields, until they reach the unobtrusive and quiet grave where the speaker is to be laid to rest. The surprise of the poem–which a less skillful poet would have overemphasized—is the dead lady’s realization that the shock of learning that she was about to die seemed to last longer than all the centuries of repose in the grave. The poem begins,

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

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