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 drew 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 —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem Because I could not stop for Death —


  1. charlotte says:

    i’m french student in english literature. i have to analyse this poem, find how mode is chosen (i thought descriptive, is there another mode present here,like lyrical mode?), what imagery and how ?(function and importance of the imageries, relation of images to the author’s mind, predominant sense impressions, metaphore? allegory?etc), the characterization (maybe personification of the death by “he”), link with Dickinson’s life ?, the tone, versification ?
    So if you can help me for my commentary, thank !!! (i have to give my paper and to present my work tomorrow !!!) please before this evening, help me!

  2. Jew Her says:

    I really like this poem because it tells how the person riding in the carriage is going to the life of eternity. She passes through schools and fields and then the setting sun… This is a really good poem. this is one of my best poem of Emily Dickinson’s collection.

  3. Wanda says:

    I LOVE, E.D. & especially this poem. I rediscovered it this past Oct when my mother passed away. I needed comfort to ease my pain, and found it in E.D.’s writings. Although she (Mom) did not want to leave us “because I could not stop for death”, she had a new great grandaughter on the way, grandchildren to see grow up, graduate from high school, get married, have children. Yet, she could not stay “..death kindly stopped for her”.. – she went quickly & did not suffer unduly (a blessing). We are all like this: too busy to be concerned about death in our daily lives – this is especially true of the young – teens, yet, when it comes we have to stop there is no choice; board the carriage that will carry us to eternity whatever that may be. Most of the time we feel we are immortal – we will live forever; death is a long way off. Because E.D. did not speak of saddness in the poem, I think her eternity was heaven (she was from religious background). When one is faced with dying, one looks back over the life lived if we have the time we see the especially happy times of our lives. “..children in the school yard..” carefree & innocent. “..fields of gazing grain..” adulthood being lived to the fullest; ripened. What have you done or given to ensure that one is not forgotten – your immortality? E.D. gave us her work & insight that is so profound for a woman of her time. Others of us: it may be children, contributions to community, work, whatever. A beautiful poem to lessen pain & sorrow of loss at the time it happens & in the future.

  4. amanda ostendorf says:

    very nice poem i really like it. someday i want to be able to write poems like u ,u do a very good job.

  5. Lisa says:

    But if we attempt to define them ourselves, the true meaning of the poem could become one that Emily herself did not intend on. It’s best to discuss these things with others. To find the true meaning. Otherwise, we’ll have rendered the poem meaningless. I’d like to know these true meanings because I am a realist. I do not care for others’ opinions so long as they’re untrue. I want the facts! Now give them to me!

  6. KRIS says:


  7. David Brogan says:

    For an understanding of ‘Because I could not stop for death. See ‘Emily Dickinson- an interpretive biography’ by Thomas H Johnson. pp.223-224

  8. Jessie Victoria says:

    i dont think this poem is dickinson’s acceptance of death i think it is that she is surrounded by so many deaths as her bio says in her later years. sitting in the carriage with death shows how she is constantly near death as she is seated next to him.
    i think the house represents her own house since she lived in her fathers house all her life. i think the ground swelling is all the coffins buried in it and basically the house is deteriorating and falling since much of her family and loved ones passed on.

  9. Jordin Hardy says:

    I think that the poem is awesome and really inspiring but I have a questions to what the house might represent?

  10. Diana says:

    Iam a sophmore in high school and we had to research a poet and one of their poems, I choose Emily Dickinson and to my surprise she is awesome!! I had chosen her just to get someone but found out acctually loving her poetry. This piece in particular. i love it that she is willing to confront death and tell it that shes not afraid, and she is willing to go. Sometimes we arent ready and it comes unexpectedly like she says but she was sure ready for it, and i take that to be truely inspring. We should always live a day at a time so when death comes we wont be afraid but happy that we are leaving to a much better world.

  11. kasumi says:

    I found that this is one of the greatest poems in american history. Emily Dickinson, portrayed death perfectly through a simple carriage ride. Although she did not have time for death, death kindly stopped for her. For someone of that time to think of that, is truly rare. Especially for a woman nonetheless. She strung the imagery together flawlessly. it was as if she was reminiscing the simple life, when she saw the school, young innocent children striving, and going to recess. I believe that she was traveling with death, and as she saw her life past by, but knew that there was another in death, thus immortality and eternity.

  12. Esaaf says:

    Rereading Dickinson’s poems about DEATH showed me that death in all her poems is related to immortality.In death she does not see the end of life ;however she see the begining of iternity. In this poem she shows her wide imagination, and her cleverness to personified Death as a suitor, I liked that sooooo soo much!

  13. Esaaf says:

    After reading these nice commentaries I discovered alot of things in this poem which I did not see.Thnx for everybody who passed his comments. Now I can see that this poem one of the greatest poems of Emily Dickinson, I like her ,her poems give other ideas about death.
    Dickinson has a profound understanding of the human psyche and a rare ability to communicate a sense of despair and depression.

  14. Min Yee says:


    One of the perfect poems in English is “Because I could not stop for death,” and it exemplifies better than anything else [Emily Dickinson] wrote the special quality of her mind. . . . If the word great means anything in poetry, this poem is one of the greatest in the English language; it is flawless to the last detail. The rhythm charges with movement the pattern of suspended action back of the poem. Every image is precise and, moreover, not merely beautiful, but inextricably fused with the central idea. Every image extends and intensifies every other. The third stanza especially shows Miss Dickinson’s power to fuse, into a single order of perception, a heterogeneous series: the children, the grain, and the setting sun (time) have the same degree of credibility; the first subtly preparing for the last. The sharp gazing before grain instills into nature a kind of cold vitality of which the qualitative richness has infinite depth. The content of death in the poem eludes forever any explicit definition. He is a gentleman taking a lady out for a drive. But note the restraint that keeps the poet from carrying this so far that it is ludicrous and incredible; and note the subtly interfused erotic motive, which the idea of death has presented to every romantic poet, love being a symbol interchangeable with death. The terror of death is objectified through this figure of the genteel driver, who is made ironically to serve the end of Immortality. This is the heart of the poem: she has presented a typical Christian theme in all its final irresolution, without making any final statement about it. There is no solution to the problem; there can be only a statement of it in the full context of intellect and feeling. A construction of the human will, elaborated with all the abstracting powers of the mind, is put to the concrete test of experience: the idea of immortality is confronted with the fact of physical disintegration. We are not told what to think; we are told to look at the situation.

    The framework of the poem is, in fact, the two abstractions, mortality and eternity, which are made to associate in perfect equality with the images: she sees the ideas. and thinks the perceptions. She did, of course, nothing of the sort; but we must use the logical distinctions, even to the extent of paradox. if we are to form any notion of this rare quality of mind. She could not in the proper sense think at all, and unless we prefer the feeble poetry of moral ideas that flourished in New England in the eighties, we must conclude that her intellectual deficiency contributed at least negatively to her great distinction. Miss Dickinson is probably the only Anglo-American poet of her century whose work exhibits the perfect literary situation— in which is possible the fusion of sensibility and thought. Unlike her contemporaries, she never succumbed to her ideas, to easy solutions, to her private desires.

    . . . No poet could have invented the elements of “Because I could not stop for death”; only a great poet could have used them so perfectly. Miss Dickinson was a deep mind writing from a deep culture, and when she came to poetry, she came infallibly.

    Infallibly, at her best; for no poet has ever been perfect, nor is Emily Dickinson. Her unsurpassed precision of statement is due to the directness with which the abstract framework of her thought acts upon its unorganized material. The two elements of her style, considered as point of view, are immortality, or the idea of permanence, and the physical process of death or decay. Her diction has two corresponding features: words of Latin or Greek origin and, sharply opposed to these, the concrete Saxon element. It is this verbal conflict that gives to her verse its high tension; it is not a device deliberately seized upon, but a feeling for language that senses out the two fundamental components of English and their metaphysical relation: the Latin for ideas and the Saxon for perceptions—the peculiar virtue of English as a poetic tongue. Only the great poets know how to use this advantage of our language.

  15. Student says:

    I have to analyze this poem and was having trouble getting started and figuring out all the symbolism, but reading through everyone’s comments has helped me greatly. I realized that her views on death aren’t grim and that although death is inevitable for everyone, there is a way to somewhat welcome it and not fear it. Dickinson has done an amazing job in writing this poem and many have done an amazing job taking it apart bit by bit and finding the significance of everything. Thank you all for posting!

  16. Joel Floyd @ FAMU -English Major says:

    On “Because I could not stop for death” (712) is defintely a beautiful written poem. Though it is an experience with death, the imagery and the way, in which, Dicksinson describes this death experience is absolutly thought evoking. “Because I could not stop for Death– he kindly stopped for me– forces one into a reality check. When one’s life clock runs out, there is no turning back. Hence, death is inevitable. Ironically, Dickison states in line two, He (death)”kiindly” stopped for me–. In most people psyche, death is veiwed as dark and inherently evil; however, Dickison’s usage of “kindly” suggests that death is is not necessarily a bad thing. She proves this in lines 9-12 in a stream of consciousness form, revealing her past experinces while alive. “We passed school where children stove, At Recess–in the ring–We passed the fields of Grazing Grain–We passed the setting sun.” Though wiered as this experience with death may seem, death and Emily are apparently having a romantic gathering in the spiritual world. Overall, the major theme of this poem is death, however, by Dickinson stating, “Because I could not stop death” reveals that at one’s appointed time, it is defintely inevitable that the sting of death cannot be stopped.
    Thank You!!!

  17. Janet Franco says:

    Emily Dickinson does not has any fear toward death. She exposes in her writing that it is a natural process, where maybe in the last hours or minutes of our lives we started thinking about basic experiences that everybody have passed by. In the first stanza she since to be struggling with the time. I mean, she is comparing the carriage with life in a sense of slowliness. We drive our carriage as fast as we want to. At the third stanza she compares school, recess and children with The Fields and a sunset. Obviously, that a huge difference. A place that you find noise, people laughing VS a place that is quiet and you might only heard the wind. The school might represent our young lives, the fields our passing through life and the sunset our oldness. Finally for centuries the horse has represent an animal of great value and I think she compares us with this kind, noble animal that with his head looking foward life as we should do, until our death kindly stopped for us., In a complete sense of Inmortality and Etermity.

  18. Rick says:

    This poem is all about death anyone that doesnt understand it well here u go.

  19. Tony says:

    Dickinson personifies Death and forms a relationship with it. I believe that she is in the process of Death. She is looking back on her life, as shown in the third, fourth, and fifth stanzas. This obviously isn’t a personal experience, as she speaks of a tulle dress (wedding gown). I think that she is accepting death for what it is: an inevitability. She is looking forward to dying, because she is looking forward toward eternity in heaven.

  20. E. Loza says:

    I was given this poem for an writing assingment in class in my college Eng. class, but I remember reading it before. However, I forgot what the poem was about and now that I have read the comments, I am happy to say, I understood it the first time I read it again 10 yrs later.

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