Comparison between “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” and “Death Be Not Proud”

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After reading Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” poem, I was immediately reminded of Jonne Donne’s poem “Death by Not Proud.” While both poems address Death, I was stuck by their completely opposite attitudes towards it. In “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” the speaker of the poem is clearly respectful and obedient to death. This is demonstrated when the speaker states that “He [Death] kindly stopped for me,” as it suggests a positive and even kind view of Death. Furthermore, throughout the poem, the speaker never challenges Death. Instead, Death is all powerful. This is demonstrated in the line “He knew no haste,” which implies that Death has is not concerned about being interrupted or stopped from completing his task. This is the direct opposite of how Death is portrayed in “Death by Not Proud.” Firstly, Death is not personified as a gracious man in this poem. Instead, Death portrayed as a cruel being, that shouldn’t exist. He is continuously being mocked by the speaker. In fact, exactly opposite of “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” the speaker claims that Death has no power of him at all. When he states “Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me,” the speaker claims that Death can’t even kill him. This is further emphasized by the line “Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men” in which he associates Death to a slave. Ultimately, these two poems, when compared demonstrate the different ways people cope/view Death. When writing this post now, I wonder whether these different views of Death have anything to do with what the authors were taught about the afterlife. Clearly Dickinson views the afterlife in a much more positive manner than Donne. Was this due to a different in religious beliefs? Upbringings? I think it would be interesting to research this.

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