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Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

A. Strong influence of Calvinism on her thought (pessimism and tragic tone of her poems) B. Care about death and immortality (1/3 of all her poems talked about these two themes.) C. exploring human’s inner world (psychology description in her poems) D. severe economy of expression E. original images F. direct and plain language G. great influence on the Imagist Movement in the 20th century

Features of Her Poems
1. subject matter : love, nature, morality and immortality. The subjects of her poems range among descriptions of love and despair, joy and suffering, and thoughts of death and immortality.

Features of Her Poems
2. Poetic form: Emily Dickinson wrote in the conventional metrical form. Her poems, with her customary four-line stanzas and ABCB rhyme schemes, are predominantly iambic and trochaic, following the various hymn meters. She defamiliarised conventional poetic form, deliberately overusing capitalization and dashes, to make her poems looking strange.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death
Stanza 1: Death, in the image of a kind gentleman, comes in a carriage for the sake of Immortality and me. Stanza 2: To show my politeness to death, I gave up my work and my enjoyment of life as well; I give up my life. Stanza 3: The journey of our carriage implies the experience of human life; school stands for childhood; the fields of gazing grain, for youth and adulthood; while the setting sun, for old age.

Stanza 4: Probably we may say the sun sets before we reach the destination---the night falls. I felt a fear and chill after death, for my shroud is thin and my scarf too light. Stanza 5. Several centuries had passed since the arrival of death upon me. However, I felt it is shorter than a day. On that day I suddenly realized that death is the starting point for eternity, and the carriage is heading towards it.

因为我不能停下来等待死神 他和善地停下来等我—— 那辆车只能容我们两个—— 还有不朽。 我们慢慢驱车—— 他不慌不忙我也把我的劳与闲 统统丢掉一边, 为了他的礼让—— 我们走过校园,孩子们你推我搡, 在休息时间,在圆形广场—— 我们走过在田间凝眸的麦杆—— 我们走过落日旁——

或毋宁说,他走过我们身旁 寒露降,身子冻得打颤—— 因为我的长衫落纱般—— 我的披肩如丝网—— 我们停步在一所房子前, 那似乎是隆起的土地一片 屋顶几乎看不见—— 屋檐在地里面—— 离那时已是几个世纪 过了还不到一天, 我首次猜测到, 马头在朝向永恒奔窜。

Questions for discussion
Because I Could Not Stop for Death 1. What metaphor does Dickinson use for Death? If you were a poet, what metaphor would you use for death? 2. What is the poet’s attitude toward death? Do you agree?

I Heard a Fly Buzz---When I Died
Stanza 1: When I was dying, I heard the buzz of a fly which reminded me of the stillness in the air. Stanza 2: Before the absolute power of death, I was helpless, so were my relatives and friends. They could do nothing more than gathering around me, tearless and breathless, and watching the arrival of death to me. Stanza 3: When I was abandoning this material world, a fly comes to me.

死时我听见一蝇营营; 室中那份沉寂 有如空中大气的肃静 当暴风雨暂歇。 四周的眼睛都全已拧干, 鼻息都蓄势戒严 待最终的攻击,待那君王 在室中赫然显现。 我分遣罢纪念品,又签罢 属我而又可遗赠 的东西——而就在这时候 插进来一只苍蝇, 带着莽撞的营营,青青无定, 在天光和我之间; 后是窗户的消隐,然后 是我的视而不见。 (余光中 译)

I Heard a Fly Buzz—When I Died 1. What does “buzz” stand for? Why is fly’s appearance somewhat ironic? 2. What basic message about death is suggested to the poet by the appearance of the fly?


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