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Because I Could Not Stop For Death

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1 Because I Could Not Stop For Death
Emily Dickinson


3 Emily Dickinson Because I Could Not Stop for Death
Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA, in 1830, Emily Dickinson was a prolific poet, though few poems were published during her lifetime. Her family was very prominent – her grandfather founded Amherst College, where her father, also a US Congressman, was Treasurer. However, Emily challenged many of the conventions of the society around her, particularly religion. While she read the works of other 19th century poets in England and America, she developed her own idiosyncratic style, using dashes and capitalisation. In later life she became very reclusive and died in 1886.

4 Because I Could Not Stop For Death
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 labour, and my leisure too, For his civility. We passed the school where children played, Their lessons scarcely done; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun. We paused before a house that seemed A swelling of the ground; The roof was scarcely visible, The cornice but a mound. Since then 'tis centuries; but each Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses' heads Were toward eternity.

5 Emily Dickinson Because I Could Not Stop for Death
This poem is a good example of her style, with punctuation dominated by dashes and words intermittently given initial capital letters. The poem is slightly disconcerting, presenting the arrival of death as a friend, or even a bridegroom, to escort the narrator in a leisurely manner towards her tomb. The personified Death’s actions are ‘kindly’, he shows ‘Civility’ and the journey has ‘no haste’. The central stanza poignantly contrasts children at play with death and the children are the first of three references to the passing of time towards the end of life. They are followed by the ripening grain, ready for harvest, and the setting sun, a frequent metaphor for the end of life. Describing the tomb as a ‘House’ suggests comfort and the final stanza confirms this, compressing the ‘Centuries’ since the journey into less ‘than the Day’. Consider whether the capitalisations are random, or serve to highlight key words. There are a number of repetitions, internal rhymes and examples of alliteration in the poem. Consider what these sound features add to a reading and understanding of the poem.

6 Homework Write an essay explaining Emily Dickinson's views on the afterlife. Due Monday Sources / / Or just Google it…

7 GET FLIRTY!!! F L I R T Y Focus on the form of the poem , looking at the structure, punctuation, line lengths and the arrangement of the poem’s stanzas. How do these features add interest and meaning to the poem? Also examine the arrangements of the words, phrases and sentences in the poem. Examine the language used in the poem, looking at the meaning of words and whether they have negative or positive connotations. Look at the techniques, imagery and sound devices, alliteration, that has been used? How do these techniques bring out the main themes and ideas in the poem? How does the poet make use of rhyme (end and internal), repetition and rhythm? Why does she do this? What are the poet’s main ideas that she brings out in the poem and how does he do this? Explain the feelings that the poet conveys throughout the poem. Describe the poet’s attitude to his subject. Does this change as the poem progresses? Carefully examine the tone throughout the poem and find vocabulary to back up your discussion. How do you react to this poem? Does it bring any particular thoughts to mind? Which poems would you compare this one with?

8 Compare with One Art Elizabeth Bishop Elegy for My Father’s Father James K. Baxter A Dream William Allingham Cold in the Earth Emily Brontë A Quoi Bon Dire Charlotte Mew The Ballad of Reading Gaol Oscar Wilde Further reading

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