because i c ould not stop death Essay

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Dickinson's Because I Could Not Stop For Death
Collamer M Abbott. The Explicator. Washington: Spring 2000.Vol. 58, Iss. 3; pg. 140, 4 pgs
People: Dickinson, Emily (1830-86)
Author(s): Collamer M Abbott
Document types: Feature
Publication title: The Explicator. Washington: Spring 2000. Vol. 58, Iss. 3; pg. 140, 4 pgs
Source type: Periodical
ISSN/ISBN: 00144940
Text Word Count 1077
Document URL: entId=43168&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Abstract (Document Summary)
Once one realizes that Emily Dickinson is talking about a stone burial vault in "Because I could not stop for Death," an image that expands the metaphoric power of the poem, one can appreciate
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Funeral processions always proceed "slowly" and often majestically. The speaker in the poem, who is dead, has certainly put away her labor and leisure to confront Death's "courtly civility." We might take "Immortality" at face value, but immortality is not a person; it is each individual's concept of "unending existence" or "lasting fame," according to Webster's. The word then has no "face value."

Ruth Miller reads "paused" literally, and sees "no burial" (193-94). But can we take words literally? I think not. Because "Centuries [. . .] Feel shorter than the Day" in this poem, a "pause" can constitute a complete if brief stop for burial in what Dickinson describes precisely: an above-ground, or partlyabove and partly-below-ground, burial vault; a key to the deeper meaning of the poem. We may also note that any burial in the time frame of eternity is but a pause.

Burial vaults were once formed by two parallel dry-stone walls, six to eight feet apart, six to eight feet high. The vaults had a stone slab or corbeled roof, a back wall, and a dry-stone facade with a portal closed by a door (or slab of marble or slate) inscribed, when used for burial, with the names of the interred. The entire structure was banked with earth and sod and

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