In because I could not stop for death, Emily Dickinson employed the use of extended metaphor of a journey through space and time. On various occasion, it is suggested that the author believed that Death ‘stopped for me’. The idea of having more time is repeated throughout the poem. However, this obvious illusion ended when, in the last lines of the poem, the speaker realizes that ‘the Horses’ Heads Were Towards Eternity’. This illusion could be used to portray the entity of Death as being deceitful and unreliable.
However, this description of Death juxtaposed the speaker’s description earlier on in the poem. Instead of the deceiving evil that was suggested in through when the speaker ‘first surmised’ that the horses’ heads ‘were toward eternity’, it was shown to be ‘kindly’ and have ‘civility’. This could further contribute to the ‘deceitful’ persona of Death, showing that he is not what he seems to be, that he is always pretending to be something that he is not.
It could be that the personification of death as a physical entity and the repetitive capitalization of ‘Death’ is used to portray the abstract concept of death into something tangible and recognizable. This can be seem through the lines ‘Because I could not stop for Death’, ‘He knew no haste’ and ‘he passed us’. The personification could be used to emphasize further on Death’s authority and importance. The capitalization of ‘He’ could be stated to emphasize that Death and the concept of being dead is very real and not something made up.
Not only he is shown as a person, he is given a very mannered personality, as stated by the lines ‘He kindly stopped for me’ and ‘His civility’. This, in contrast to the deceiving character represented afterwards, create a feeling of mistrust in the reader, implying that Death cannot be trusted. It could also be said that he can make people believe in whatever he wants to take them to their end, supplementing the evil persona stated. Emily Dickinson also partially suggest that Death is not only alive at the end of our days, but instead had always been with us, following us.
This is suggested by the extended metaphor of a journey that ran through the poem, given that the journey is the journey of life. With this, it is possible that we do not meet death at the end, we are only delaying the time. The rhythm of the poem could also provide more description of the journey. The steady alternation between the iambic tetrameter in lines 1 and 3, and the iambic trimeter in line 2 and 4 of each stanza could be used to suggest the steady pace of our journey through life, with it being a continuous flow, not disrupted.
With this, the break from the pattern at the end of the poem, with it the end of our life, could show the suddenness of death. The extra syllable in the last line could be an attempt to show present the longevity of death and death’s all-reaching omnipotence. In John Donne’s ‘Death Be Not Proud’, the break from the general rhythm of iambic pentameter could be interpreted as an intended emphasis on the content of the line. This could have been employed to address Death’s , an entity, prowess and authority.
However, this contradicts the general theme of Death being powerless which is seen throughout the poem. The lack of power is shown through the lines ‘Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me’, ‘Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men’. The tone of pity John Donne had used is possibly to state that he is not afraid of Death, and neither awed by his powers or respect his authorities. The reference to Death’s power earlier could be a sample of popular belief, added to be countered by the points he made later.
The personification of the abstract noun such as ‘Fate, Chance, kings and desperate me’ may serve to portray death as mortal, vulnerable and lacks any authority or influence. This effect is also accomplished by the usage of the metaphor in ‘thou art slave to’ which compares the abstract entity of Death as a slave to others. Another case of a metaphorical usage of language can be seen by how Death is gradually less described as ‘Mighty and Dreadful’ and more of being ‘a slave’ to other. This could be a metaphor depicting the journey of a human through life.
When we are young, we are strong, influential, powerful. All of this fits with John Donne’s depiction of Death. As we proceed through life, we becomes older and weaker, nearer to our demise. This could be another connection to how Death is portrayed as a slave to ‘Fate, Chance’, as both of these is believed to be the the deciding factor on when we will die. In addition, how John Donne stated that ‘poison war and sickness’ and ‘poppy or charms can make us sleep’ as well also enforced on the metaphor.
By mentioning events that might have occurred in on’e life and how it may have killed us, he’s linking back to his metaphor of the human live. Finally, how John Donne states that ‘though some may call’ Death ‘mighty and dreadful’ but how ‘thou art not so’, he many be referring to one’s dissipating authority. A person might still believed that someone past his prime still holds power, or the individual himself might still does, even though it is pure conjecture. The metaphor ends with the suggestion of the afterlife of how ‘we’ll live forever’.