Because I could not stop for death
By Emily Dickinson
In the episode ‘They Keep Killing Suzie’, Max recited the poem when he was incarcerated in the cells at the Hub. He recited the poem over and over again, so much so that it triggered the lockdown of the complete building rendering the team completely helpless, unable to unlock the Hub or operate the computers, or call out for help. Until of course, Ianto used the water tower as a conductor and Toshiko used the computer keyboard mainframe to type in the data required, but only once the book with the poems of Emily Dickenson had been acquired by DI Swanson at the local nick.
Emily Dickinson was an American poet born December 10th 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her family were prominent but not wealthy. Her paternal grandfather had almost singlehandedly founded the Amherst College, formerly a boys school, now a college accepting both male and female students.
Emily was a very reclusive poet and as the years progressed, became more and more withdrawn from public life, when her mother grew ill, she became the main carer withdrawing completely. Her only correspondence with friends was by letter.
Emily had a fixation on death; she was terribly depressed and had lost a lot of good friends very early on in life. Her house, bought by her father for the family, on North Pleasant Street overlooked a burial ground, it was described by a local minister as treeless and ‘forbidding’, which couldn’t have helped boost her mental state.
The poem ‘Because I could not stop for death’ was morbidly about Death and how Emily saw him as a gentleman caller. It was a lyric poem first published posthumously in Poems: Series 1 in 1890.
It was published under the title ‘The Chariot’.
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 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—
Emily died on May 15th 1886 of Bright disease she was 55.
To find out more about Emily and her life visit:
©BBC Torchwood 2006