Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death (712)
Emily Dickinson

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 – 

About “Because I could not stop for Death (712)”

In a letter to Abiah Root, Dickinson once asked, “Does not Eternity appear dreadful to you…I often get thinking of it and it seems so dark to me that I almost wish there was no Eternity. To think that we must forever live and never cease to be. It seems as if Death which all so dread because it launches us upon an unknown world would be a relief to so endless a state of existense.” 

I remember memorizing this poem in high school, and then when I was college, I learned that all of Emily Dickinson’s poems could be sang to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” or “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”  In fact, any tune written to a 4/4 beat can be used because Dickinson wrote her poetry using a 4/4 meter.  That aside, I chose this for my poem today for a few reasons.  Yesterday would have been my late Grandmama’s 90th birthday.  I went to check on her grave and make sure that everything was as it should be.  Also, I helped a neighbor of mine take care of a different graveyard.  We have several small graveyards around here that are either with a church or are small family graveyards.  My neighbor takes care of this graveyard which is her families old graveyard.  We pulled weeds, weedeated, and cleaned up around the graves.  We will go back another day this week and finish up by putting out new flowers.


I know that some people find cemeteries to be creepy; others see them as a solemn place of eternal rest.  I find them not only as a solemn place, but also as a fascinating place.  Gravestones  and the cemeteries that hold them can tell so many stories.  As an historian, cemeteries interest me to know end.  I love them for the history and stories they contain.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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