Meter in Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Meter Examples in Because I Could Not Stop for Death:

Text of the Poem 2

"and my leisure too,..."   (Text of the Poem)

Dickinson wrote this poem in what is known as “common meter”: an alternating pattern of four-beat and three-beat lines. Common meter gets its name from its frequent use in hymns and nursery rhymes. The poem “Because I could not stop for Death” evokes the feeling of a nursery rhyme, a form intended for both education and fun, both labor and leisure. In the words of the Roman poet Horace, poetry’s aim is to delight and instruct. If we were to imagine Dickinson as the passenger, poetry would be her “labor and [her] leisure too.”

"Were toward eternity...."   (Text of the Poem)

In this final line, the three metrical beats fall on syllables beginning with “t.” When read aloud, the line sounds like a clock, with a rhythmic ticking of t sounds. These sounds beautifully evoke the horses’ headlong trot through time. This use of alliteration on metrical beats is a poetic signature of Anglo-Saxon verse.