Last Updated on 01/22/2023 by Sophia
English poet W.H. Auden’s 1936 poem “Stop all the clocks,” portrays the 4 stages of grief when experiencing death. American poet, Emily Dickinson, explore ideas of death, isolation, and a sense of confusion and grief through her poem, ‘because I could to stop for death’. “Stop all the clocks” features an AABB rhyme pattern. This lullaby like flow of the poem creates an interesting and engaging experience for the reader. Dickinson similarly composed “Because I could not stop for death” to portray the journey with death. Interestingly Dickinson uses personification to portray death as a somewhat friendly figure and how “he” lures people into the afterlife. The rhyme scheme used in Because I could not stop for death is best described as ABAB. Both Auden and Dickinson use various poetic devices to represent death as a journey and how it influences their lives.
W.H Auden and Gwen Harwood both successfully use various techniques to symbolise death in their poems. In the second stanza of Stop All the Clocks, Auden writes about publicly announcing the death of a loved one. Personification is used in the line “Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead”, this influences the audience in to acknowledge the “emotions” that the aeroplanes are feeling. In this case, the aeroplanes are seen moaning overhead, Auden uses the word moaning to relate back to the ideas of death as it is a key trait when someone is crying. Symbolism is also used effectively when Auden states “let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves”. The significance of wearing black cotton gloves is that black is the colour for mourning in many cultures. Auden signifies that the policemen wear the black gloves as policemen are regular seen in public areas, further promoting the death publicly. Similarly, in Because I could not stop for Death, Emily Dickinson uses symbolism effectively to capture her views on the departure from life. The line “We slowly drove, he knew no haste” in stanza two symbolises the author thoughts of “slowly driving” away from life. The transfer into death. The welcoming of death is also apparent in each poem as both poets create an accepting tone when alluding to death with words such as “peacefulness” and “kindly” being used. The welcoming of death is very evident in both poems as both poets create a comforting tone when refereeing to death with use of the word’s “peacefulness” and “kindly”. Along with symbolic death, both poets delve into the experience of death through the idea of isolation.
Auden explores the idea of isolation in stanza 1 of “Stop All the Clocks” whilst the idea of isolation is portrayed throughout Dickinson’s “because I could not stop for death”. “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum, Bring out the coffin let the mourners come”, Auden firstly starts off the poem by calling for silence from everyday objects of life. This symbolizes the wanting of privacy after a death. Dickinson however, applies an ABAB rhyme scheme to her poem to emphasise an eerie sensation, similarly to how the audience would experience when reading the poem. Alliteration is used in this line as well to bring attention to the matter of cutting out objects mainly used for communication. Enjambment is evident throughout the stanza. This creates the idea of isolation to carry on to each line of the stanza. In stanza 5 of Because I could not stop for Death,Dickinson states “We paused before a house that seemed, A swelling of the ground, the roof was scarcely visible, The cornice but a mound”. Dickinson foreshadows herself passing her “new house” in the afterlife “swelling out of the ground”. Dickinson claims that “the roof was scarcely visible”, the tone of the poem becomes one of disappointment. Death lured her into to the afterlife with promises of eternity. Now that she sees her small derogated eternal home, she feels isolated within the walls of her house in the afterlife. Dickinson further explores the ideas of isolation in stanza 6, “since then its centuries and yet each feels shorter each day”. She feels that it has been “centuries and feels shorter each day” as life continues without her. Centuries since she left her life behind, now alone in dark cold grave in the afterlife.
While both poems interpret the ideas of death and isolation, grief and confusion are a frequently appearing theme in both poems. In Auden’s Stop All the Clocks, four stanzas are used to portray the 4 stages of grief. Isolation, anger, depression, and finally acceptance. Featured in paragraph 1, the first stanza in the poem resembles isolation. Substantial uses of enjambment and symbolism are evident in the stanza with lines such as “Silence the pianos” “muffled drum” to encourage the idea of isolation. Stanza 2 relates to the second stage of grief, anger. Auden in cooperates hints of death in public settings to portray the idea of publicly announcing the death. “Let aeroplanes, scribbling on the sky He Is Dead”. The last three words of this line “He Is Dead” are displayed in capital letters to stand out from the rest of the stanza. Breaking up the stanzas smooth flow. Dickinson also refers to a mode of transportation created through symbolism when embarking on “the carriage” that represents her travel to the afterlife, as she foreshadows her death when herself and death past “the setting sun”. The final two stages of grief regarding depression and acceptance are evident in stanzas three and four. “He was my north, south, my east and west. Auden reflects on the love and influence the death of his friend had on his life. Auden uses strong verbs to create a sense of grief as this person was his “working week, and my Sunday rest”. A dramatic pause is apparent in the final line of stanza 3. “I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong”. Using dramatic pauses gives the audience time to reflect on the authors words and relate it back into their own lives and experience. It is noticeable in stanza 4 that Auden has accepted the death of his friend. “Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, for nothing now can ever come good”. Auden incorporates symbolism in this last and significant part of the poem. The author is trying to portray that without his friend living with him, he now accepts that nothing can ever come to any good. Dickinson incorporates the idea of confusion in her poem. A sudden shift in tone in stanza 4 creates the audience to feel empathy for Dickinson as “the dews grew quivering and chill, for only gossamer my gown” discovers a darker and more sinister theme. The relates back to stanza 4 in Stop All the Clocks, where Auden states “pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood”. Symbolising that eternal death leaves loved one behind, confused and deeply saddened.
Both W.H. Auden and Emily Dickinson creatively explore the aspects of death through, symbolic death, isolation, and confusion and grief. Whilst Dickinson demonstrates all of these themes to the audience through her symbolic description of her journey to the afterlife, it is Auden who successfully conveys the ideas of death and grief to his readers. Auden’s metaphoric explanation of Stop All theingeniously convey the influences of death on a person.