In the poem “Because I Could Not Stop For Earth” by Emily Dickinson, the poetess has a realistic and dauntless idea about death. It is a relaxing interval helping us in our onward journey in the realms of eternity. Although we are forgetful of our real duties and do not make appropriate preparations to receive death yet death is very kind and considerate to escort us to our final destination.
She poetess herself was given very kind treatment by death. She recounts her past age, touching upon prominent stages of her life, her school days, blooming youth, and old age ending into death. After the burial, she feels that in the next world, time changes into timelessness, and centuries could be hardly compared with a moment of eternity. So, the image of the ride in the carriage has a dual significance. It is a journey from life to death, from the physical to the spiritual, and from time to timelessness.
While sitting in the company of death, the poetess recounts the prominent periods of her lie. First, she presents the scene of happy school days when she lived like a free bird leading a carefree life. Then she touches upon the period of her youth by pointing to green fields, which are the symbol of her blooming youth. Touching upon these two prominent milestones of her life, she shifts to setting sun, which resembles the departure of man from mortal world to eternity.
The rest of the three stanzas are concerned with the experiences after death. The carriage carrying the poetess, the death and immortality stopped in front of her seemed to be inadequate to protect her. She points to the inadequate good deeds, which could protect her soul in the next world. However, the poetess was buried at last in her grave. Now she became the inhabitant of another world. There were other laws to rule as centuries could be compared with a moment of eternity. She sensed her shift from mortal to immortal world when the horses were heading to the graveyeard.
Explanation with Reference
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The carriage held but just Ourselves
In the given lines, the poetess talks about the arrival of death ironically. People generally do not want to die. They wish to escape death as much as possible. But the poetess cheerfully welcomes death as her companion. Death is personified in the poem. As the poetess could not wait for death, he was kind enough to stop for her and invite her to get in his carriage. The poetess readily got on. She finds death, immortality, and poetess herself traveling together towards their destination.
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess-in the Ring,
We passed in Field of Gazing grain
We passed the Setting Sun-
In these lines, the poetess describes the daily routine of human life. Children are playing different games at break time. The grain harvest seemed to look fixedly in astonishment at her sitting in an uncommon carriage in the company of Death and Immortality. She also passed the setting sun. This process symbolizes three stages of man’s life: the childhood, youth and old age.
We paused before a House that seemed
Swelling of the Ground-
The roof was scarcely visible-
The Cornice-in the Ground-
In this stanza, the poetess talks about the final abode of man. They stop before a house, which appears a heap of earth. It is the grave in which the poetess is to be buried. The roof of the grave is nowhere to be seen. It is just like a projection in the ground. thus, she knows it very well that it is grave from where her should is to rise to timeless immortality. (Because I Could Not Stop For Earth)
Since then-’tis Centuries and yet
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the Horses’ heads
Were towards Eternity-
In this stanza, the poetess describes the destination of the carriage of eternity. Death itself is not the end of life. So, death opens the gate of man life’s journey to eternity. In this final abode, man is above worldly limitations. He is free of the flow of time and cares about life. Here centuries pass rapidly; one cannot imagine the flow of time. Even a century appears shorter than the day. She guesses that the horses of the carriage are heading towards eternity. It symbolizes her journey from life to death and from time fullness to timelessness.
Element of Fear
In the poem, the poetess Emily Dickinson has dealt with death in a light mood. Normally, the consideration of death is a horrible and tremulous thing. The idea of death brings a terrific effect on the listener but Emily presents a favorable picture of death. The image of death presented by her is the kind and courteous host. But, we do not feel the least fear of death throughout the poem.
Emily Dickinson tells us that she remained busy in her day-to-day life and could not think about death. IT is the generosity of death that he comes to her as a host. He offers her a ride in his carriage to go to eternity.
The poetess passes through all the stages of life. She has seen childhood, youth, and old age, or mystically, it is death that passes us. As T.S. Elio says, “In my beginning is my end; in my end is my beginning.” It seems that things are already set, we simply explore them, go through them, talk about them, and then we are towards our end. The end opens another beginning. Thus we have a never-ending journey. (Because I Could Not Stop For Earth)
Death is a very courteous host
At last, she reaches her eternal house where she is to stay. After death and burial ceremony, she is above the worldly limitations. No threat of the flow of time. No fear of decay, decadence, and death. It is a world where time ceases to exist. That is the reason; she finds the flow of centuries shorter than the worldly day. This all is achieved by the dint of courtesy death.
Emily Dickinson’s treatment of death is really unique and remarkable. Her description of death frees the reader of undue fear. It rather makes the person optimistic when he is assured that there is no annihilation. It is a happy augury that enables man to escape the pangs of the fear of death that haunts man throughout life. This all is achieved through courteous host death by Emily Dickinson. (Because I Could Not Stop For Earth)