26 April 2010

Tuesday poem: Because I could not stop for Death

by 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 grew 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 -

I wish I were more familiar with the poems of Emily Dickinson, because what I’ve read I’ve really liked, but alas my large copy of The Poems of Emily Dickinson, with her original punctuation, quirky capitalisation and generously used dashes intact, remains mostly unread. I always find big volumes so unwelcoming. I much prefer small volumes of carefully selected poems, which fit nicely together, but given Emily Dickinson didn’t publish any books in her lifetime, I won’t be getting that from her.

I came across the above poem in my literary criticism textbook, of all places. I forget what literary-theory concept it was illustrating, but I loved its attitude and its rhythm. I’ve never been very good at remembering poems (least of all my own) by heart, but I hope to never forget the first two lines of this poem.

Next time I use an out-of-copyright poem for my Tuesday poem, I promise to not use another about death.

The Tuesday Poem movement is increasing. You can find the ‘official’ Tuesday Poem, and other Tuesday Poems on the blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

1 comment:

Kay McKenzie Cooke. said...

Oh I love Emily Dickinson ... thank you!