ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Emily Dickinson Rides with Death in Poem #712

Updated on September 25, 2015
A.A. Zavala profile image

Served in the U.S. Army, attended and graduated from The University of Texas-Arlington with a bachelors in psychology and minor in sociology

Emily Dickinson's description of death

In poem #712, Dickinson describes the cycle of life and death while riding with the Grim Reaper. However, the poem isn’t dark nor is it fatalistic. In fact, the author’s description of the ride with Death gives the reader the impression that they’re sharing a leisurely carriage ride together. A genteel ride through the country side that eventually takes the author into eternity.

Dickinson’s poem #712 is broken down into six stanzas with each broken down into quatrains.

Dickinson’s poem #712 is broken down into six stanzas with each broken down into quatrains. This poem can be considered a lyrical one, with a rhyming line “He kindly stopped for me- … And Immortality” (lines 2-4), combined with non rhyming lines. The poem, when read out load has an intoxicating, melodic flow that envelops the reader into the text. In the beginning stanza Dickinson helps set the tone for a cordial, almost romantic ride with her companion:

Because I could not stop for Death-
He kindly stopped for me-
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-
And Immortality. (1-4)

Fields of grain and the setting sun

Death arrives, not as soul stealing dark figure riding on a nightmare, but as a gentleman caller in a carriage made for two. The tone in the first stanza is solemn, but the author isn’t afraid of her visitor, instead she is happy that he has stopped by to visit.

Dickinson continues the cordial tone through the second stanza describing how they rode together “We slowly drove- He knew no haste” (5). Death doesn’t need to be in a hurry, he is deliberate and precise, always arriving at the pre-destined time. This line also reinforces the intimacy between the author and Death that was initiated in the first stanza. In the third stanza the author begins to describe scenes along their ride:

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess- in the Ring-
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-
We passed the Setting Sun- (9-12)

The first image of children playing indicates a distant memory from the author’s child hood. It serves to remind the reader of the exuberance that children have, not wanting for anything or worrying about life, just wanting to play. The fields of gazing grain are symbolic for the cycle of life. Grain is planted, then grown, then eventually harvested. We are born, we live, and then we are harvested by Death. At the end of the stanza the author and Death pass the setting sun. The setting of the sun alludes to the coming end of the day, or in this poem life.

The final stop

The ride continues into the night until the author reaches another stop in their journey. They arrive at a house, but the description of the home indicates that it may actually be the author’s final resting place:

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground-
The Roof was scarcely Visible-
The Cornice- in the Ground- (17-20)

The house that the author speaks of is actually a grave, indicated by the swelling in the ground. Notice that the carriage didn’t stop at the grave, just paused. The house isn’t the final destination for Dickinson, only a repository for her earthly remains. The journey continues, and the author realizes that time has become insignificant. Death has maneuvered the reins, turning the horses head and ushered her into eternity.

Works Cited
Dickinson, Emily. “712.” The American Tradition In Literature. Ed. George Perkins, Barbara Perkins. Mcgraw –Hill, 2002. 974.

© 2010 Augustine A. Zavala

Because I Could Not Stop for Death - by Emily Dickinson - film by Peter Hague

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)