Weekly Poem: Because I could not stop for Death

a sunny summer evening of a hill with some houses and the ocean in the background, the words "WEEKLY POEM" are in the centre of the image in all caps

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

We slowly drove—He knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility—

We passed the School, where Children strove
At recess—in the ring—
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
We passed the Setting Sun—

Or rather—He passed Us—
The Dews drew quivering and chill—
For only Gossamer, my Gown—
My Tippet—only Tulle—

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—

Since then—’tis centuries— and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses‘ Heads
Were toward Eternity—

Because I could not stop for Death is one of Emily Dickinson’s (1830-1886) most notable poems, and one which deals with one of the poet’s most common subjects– Death. Here, it is personified as a male suitor taking the speaker for a carriage ride with Immortality as their only chaperone. Though the ride begins as a pleasant experience, as the speaker is taken through different stages of their life, in the fourth stanza the poem takes a discomforting turn as the speaker realizes that although Death is kind and patient, he is also unrelenting in his goal of taking her to her grave.

I chose this poem mainly because it is one of my favorites. The poem really takes you by surprise when it shifts tone in the middle of it and though the language used by Dickinson is relatively simple, the imagery she paints is poignant. In the fourth stanza,

The Dews drew quivering and chill —

For only Gossamer, my Gown–

My Tippet, only Tulle–

The poem effectively evokes the cold fear one might experience when you are at the mercy of Death–especially if all you are wearing is a thin gown and a flimsy scarf.