Emily Dickinson’s world was her father’s home and garden in a small New England
town. She lived most of her life within this private world. Her romantic visions
and emotional intensity kept her from making all but a few friends. Because of
this life of solitude, she was able to focus on her world more sharply than
other authors of her time were. Her poems, carefully tied in packets, were
discovered only after she had died. They reveal an unusual awareness of herself
and her world, a shy but determined mind. Every poem was like a tiny micro-chasm
that testified to Dickinson’s life as a recluse. Dickinson’s lack of rhyme and
regular meter and her use of ellipsis and compression were unimportant as long
as her poetry was encouraged by it. Although some find her poetry to be
incomprehensible, illiterate, and uneducated, most find that her irregular
poetic form are her original attempts at liberating American poetry from a stale
heritage. Her poetry was the precursor to the modern spirit with the influence
of transcendentalism not puritanism. Her treatment of Death and profound
metaphysical tendencies were part of the singular nature of her genius. Emily’s
simple language draws rich meanings from common words. The imagery and metaphors
in her poetry are taken from her observations of nature and her imagination. She
approached her poetry inductively, combining words to arrive at a conclusion the
pattern of words suggested, rather than starting with a specific theme or
message. Her use of certain words resulted in one not being able to grasp her
poetry with only one reading. She paid minute attention to things that nobody
else noticed in the universe.” She was obsessed with death and its
consequences especially the idea of eternity. She once said, “Does not
Eternity appear dreadful to you I often get thinking of it and it seems so
dark to me that I almost wish there was no Eternity. To think that we must
forever live and never cease to be. It seems as if death which all so dread
because it launches us upon an unknown world would be a relief to so endless a
state of existence.” Dickinson heavily believed that it was important to
retain the power of consciousness after life. The question of mental cessation
at death was an overtone of many of her poems. The imminent contingency of
death, as the ultimate source of awe, wonder, and endless questions, was life’s
most fascinating feature to Dickinson. Dickinson challenges the mysteries of
death with evasion, despair, curiosity or hope in her poetry as means to clarify
her curiosity. From examining her poems of natural transitions of life and
death, changing states of consciousness, as a speaker from beyond the grave,
confronting death in a journey or dream and on the dividing line of life and
death one can see that Dickinson points to death as the final inevitable change.

The intensity of Dickinson’s curiosity about dying and her enthusiasm to learn
of the dying persons’ experience at the point of mortality is evident in her
poetry. She studies the effect of the deads’ disappearance, on the living world,
in a hope to conjecture something about the new life they are experiencing after
death. Dickinson believes that a dying person’s consciousness does not die with
the body at death but rather it lives on and intensifies. In To know just how He
suffered-would be dear To know just how He suffered — would be dear — To know
if any Human eyes were near To whom He could entrust His wavering gaze — Until
it settle broad — on Paradise — To know if He was patient — part content —
Was Dying as He thought — or different — Was it a pleasant Day to die — And
did the Sunshine face his way — What was His furthest mind — Of Home — or God
— Or what the Distant say — At news that He ceased Human Nature Such a Day —
And Wishes — Had He Any — Just His Sigh — Accented — Had been legible — to
Me — And was He Confident until Ill fluttered out — in Everlasting Well — And
if He spoke — What name was Best — What last What One broke off with At the
Drowsiest — Was He afraid — or tranquil — Might He know How Conscious
Consiousness — could grow — Till Love that was — and Love too best to be —
Meet — and the Junction be Eternity expresses her belief about the experience
of dying and her wonderment of what happens during death. Dickinson suggests
that the dying person’s final gaze will be on paradise as if at the point of
death it sees what is to come. Dickinson herself wants, “to know just how
he suffered To know if any Human eyes were near To know if He was
patient” many questions like these are raised as to the experiences of
the dying. She probes at the implications of leaving the living, searching for
the strength of deaths appeal, and wondering abou the junction of love that
existed during life and love that is to be, after life. Questions are raised
about the person’s attachments to the world already known rather than insights
into another world after death. The impossibility of Dickinson to fully
penetrate the mysteries of the afterlife does not allow for insight into this
other world. Since she could not follow the dead beyond her world Dickinson
focused on their effect on the world they left behind. She searched for answers
from the dead as they lay in their resting-places in Safe in their Alabaster
Chambers. Safe in their Alabaster Chambers — Untouched my Morning And untouched
by Noon — Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection — Rafter of satin, And
Roof of stone. Light laughs the breeze In her Castle above them — Babbles the
Bee in a stolid Ear, Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence — Ah, what
sagacity perished here! The Alabaster chamber, “untouched by morning and
untouched by noon, ” represents the tomb of the dead and their separation
from the world. Dickinson concludes that she finds no answers from the dead
because she is unable to understand their world. However, she knows that they
are only sleeping and will come back when they are resurrected. Spoken from
beyond the grave, Because I could not stop for Death 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– has an
imaginary person, not Dickinson who would be looking beyond into death, but
content with the routine of the life, looking back from death into the living
world which she has disappeared from. She had been too busy to stop her work
while she was living so death, “kindly stopped, ” for her. As she
passes the children, the Gazing Grain and finally the setting sun, we see the
stages of life, childhood, maturity, and old age, respectively. Not only Death
has come for the woman, “The Carriage held but just Ourselves and
Immortality.” Again Emily focuses on the previous world and on mortality
and can not see into death and immortality. Dickinson represents death’s
finality by stressing the continued presence of objects no longer valuable or
meaningless, and on the ceasing of activities that had characterized life.

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Immobility in death is the best evidence of death’s withdrawal from life because
of the respect given to one’s actions during life. The cessation of common and
routine activities in life are represented as idle hands of the dead in Death
sets a Thing significant Death sets a Thing significant The Eye had hurried by
Except a perished Creature Entreat us tenderly To ponder little Workmanships In
Crayon, or in Wool, With “This was last Her fingers did” —
Industrious until — The Thimble weighed too heavy — The stitches stopped — by
themselves — And then ’twas put among the Dust Upon the Closet shelves — A
Book I have — a friend gave — Whose Pencil — here and there — Had notched
the place that pleased Him — At Rest — His fingers are — Now — when I read
— I read not — For interrupting Tears — Obliterate the Etchings Too Costly
for Repairs. when Dickinson writes, “At Rest – His fingers are.”
Although these activities are unimportant after death they are of value and
evidence of involvement in the living world. Mentioning the, “little
Workmanships,” and other insignificant aspects of life, is Dickinson’s way
of representing the pettiness and simplicity of life in contrast to her view of
death as a revelation of the conscious, bringing it to a higher level of
understanding. She tries to show how after death things become significant that
weren’t while you were living, for her this is part of the grieving process. The
focus on a mundane creature like a fly in I heard a fly buzz when I died I heard
a fly buzz when I died; The stillness round my form Was like the stillness in
the air Between the heaves of storm. The eyes beside had wrung them dry, And
breaths were gathering sure For that last onset, when the king Be witnessed in
his power. I willed my keepsakes, signed away What portion of me Could make
assignable, – and then There interposed a fly, With blue, uncertain, stumbling
buzz, Between the light and me; And then the windows failed, and then I could
not see to see. reminds the reader of the household discomforts and petty
irritabilities in life that are irrelevant in death. A fascination with
immortality is dominant in many of her poems about death. Her imagination thrust
her beyond the living into the mysteries of death and immortality. She wanted to
learn what lay beyond mortality before she experienced it. Through her poems,
she was never able to appease her curiosity or answer her endless questions but
only to speculate about them. In The spirit lasts – but in what mode The Spirit
lasts but in what mode Below, the Body speaks, But as the Spirit furnishes
Apart, it never talks The Music in the Violin Does not emerge alone But Arm in
Arm with Touch, yet Touch Alone is not a Tune The Spirit lurks within the Sea
That makes the Water live, estranged What would the Either be? Does that know
now or does it cease That which to this is done, Resuming at a mutual date With
every future one? Instinct pursues the Adamant, Exacting the Reply Adversity if
it may be, or Wild Prosperity The Rumor’s Gate was shut so tight Before my Mind
was sown, Not even a Prognostic’s Push Could make a Dent thereon she analyzes
the nature of man’s changed life after death. Dickinson looks at the question,
could the soul exist without the body. She concludes that the body and the soul
interact to form an identity, and matter is essential to spiritual expression.

Beauty, truth and grace are too abstract for the imagination to comprehend for
the speaker in the poem so she must direct her questions outside the living only
to find “Adamant.” The poem This world is not conclusion This World is
not Conclusion. A Species stands beyond – Invisible, as Music – But positive, as
Sound – It beckons, and it baffles – Philosophy – don’t know – And through a
Riddle, at the last – Sagacity, must go – To guess it, puzzles scholars – To
gain it, Men have borne Contempt of Generations And Crucifixion, shown – Faith
slips – and laughs, and rallies – Blushes, if any see- Plucks at a twig of
Evidence – And asks a Vane, the way – Much Gesture, from the Pulpit – Strong
Hallelujahs roll – Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the soul –
addresses the question of, is immortality possible? Dickinson starts off assure
of her belief in immortality but as the poem develops that assurance breaks down
and is questioned.


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