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 gossamer my gown
my tippet only tulle
We paused before a house that seemed
a swelling in 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.
Date of writing: Jun 29, 1980
Comment: Since the poem commemorates “the day I first surmised the horses heads were toward eternity” we must recognize that with this famous poem she gives honor and place to the first mutual climax she experienced, in the select pantheon of her poetry.
One may ask: why so late? Why especially this poem during one of the darkest twilight periods in her love life? I actually felt compelled to look with sharp and hard eyes for possible evidence that not a normal, straightforward heterosexual intercourse, ending in mutual climax, but a perverse indulgence of one kind or another is the subject of it. I found no such, and if on an earlier occasion I held it possible that the poem is a double double hybrid with the hum of both orientations in it, then I was wrong.
Her earliest, oldest muse, that engendered during her wagon ride to Monson with her aunt, Lavinia Norcross, at the age of just under 2 1/2 years, is in charge here, but only some of the symbols that derive from the experience are in evidence. Conspicuously missing are the “God in the cloud, the god of thunder and lightning, of fire”, and so is the experience of “going home”, the new and real home. But they are in the poem cleverly hidden as the gentleman who offers the coach ride (on the glans, home to the mutual climax). The poem belongs with those she probably gestated longest and hardest, (like 1100, for instance). It deserves thorough discussion, but I will probably have to leave that to others.