Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” is one of her most famous poems. It features a speaker who climbs into a carriage with Death and peacefully travels with him to her final resting place. The poem is calm and pensive in its tone and expresses a peaceful acceptance of death. The original poem, which has been reproduced in modern editions, contains Dickinson’s characteristic em-dash punctuation and beyond-the-grave imagery. However, the version most commonly read is the one which editors Mabel Todd Loomis and Thomas Wentworth Higginson produced in their 1890 collection of Dickinson’s poems. This version is titled “The Chariot” and has modernized punctuation and images manipulated to make the narrative more clear. However, these edits undermine the power of some of the imagery and smooth out Dickinson’s original, halting pace. Nonetheless, the poem remains a graceful meditation on the human confrontation with mortality.

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