Because I Could Not Stop for Death
by Emily Dickinson
A poem first published in 1890; republished with a sixth (original) stanza in the 1950s.1
Now deceased, the speaker recalls the arrival of Death, in the guise of a gentleman caller, and relates him to eternity.
Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
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 Gossamer2 my Gown —
My Tippet3 — only Tulle4 —
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.
1 Early editors excised Stanza 4, still not present in some versions but shown in this copyrighted edition, credited here:
Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the trustees of Amherst College from THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard Univesity Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
2 gossamer Dellicate gauze.
3 tippet Shawl- or scarf-like wrap.
4 tulle Machine-made cotton net material, originally intended to simulate lace.
PORTRAIT: Emily Dickinson by William C. North (1846-47).
CITATION INFORMATION (in MLA format): Dickinson, Emily. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." Gleeditions, 17 Apr. 2011, www.gleeditions.com/notstopfordeath/students/pages.asp?lid=301&pg=5. Originally published in The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Harvard U Press, 1998, p. 546.