Reading aloud: Because I could not stop for Death

You probably know about how Emily Dickinson’s poetry can be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” You might not know, however, that this is not all that amazing a coincidence. Dickinson wrote most of her poetry in regular metrical stanzas in which the four lines have four, three, four, and then three iambic beats each, and this happens to be a very popular structure for songs, especially ballads and hymns. So you could sing Dickinson to many other songs, such as “Amazing Grace”, or apply the tune of “Amazing Grace” or “The Yellow Rose of Texas” to many other poems, such as Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

Still, there’s a very nice fit between this particular poem of Dickinson’s and that particular tune, and so I decided to go ahead and pair them in this reading.

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 –