Enigma Of Death

1547 WORDS

Enigma Of Death
"Pale Death with impartial tread beats at the poor man's cottage door and
at the palaces of kings." Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.)

Death eventually comes to everyone, and yet it is a phenomenon shrouded in
mystery. Scholars and scientists try to understand it, philosophers pose
theories and conclusions about it, artists try to capture it between streaks of
paint across a canvas, while poets like Emily Dickinson explore it's meaning and
influence through verse. Death is like an outward rush into the unknown where
there is nothing recognizable and nothing to cling to. The unknown is always
feared, and since nothing is known about death or an afterlife, people fear it.

What Dickinson's poetry delves into is the undeniable power of death to detach
one from life and the pain and sorrow that accompanies it like a dark cloud
above it's head. In There's a Certain Slant of Light , Dickinson uses nature as
the backdrop for her description of death, and the elements to describe the
silent pain that it brings with it. The poem appears to create some sort of
setting for the reader in order to portray this. The sight of a funeral
procession entering a cemetery is probably an apt description of this setting.

The slant of light is used to portray a heavenly beam that falls on the earth
and brings a gloomy feeling with it. It could be the finger of God beckoning to
the deceased to come to the heavenly abode or a divine path showing him the road
to heaven. However, the light possesses a sort of weightiness: "That
oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes-". This heaviness in the
light may refer to the undecipherable feelings that one has, when you lose
someone close to you. The second and third stanzas of the poem bring out the
true profundity of these mixed emotions. "Furthermore, both light and air
are portrayed as symbolic of God, so that they become agents through whom God
imposes His Heavenly Hurt upon the speaker, or maims her with His imperial
affliction" (Griffith 27). The "Heavenly Hurt" may be described
as the deep sorrow and pain that one feels when faced by the death of one's near
and dear ones. The hurt is not physical, but emotional and psychological. It is
probably deep within the speaker's heart "Where the Meanings, are-".

For, when someone is lost in love, deeply hurt or excessively happy, it is hard
to describe what one exactly feels or understand where exactly these feelings
are coming from. "She still cannot pinpoint the source of her anxiety. It
comes quietly, seemingly 'Sent us of the Air-' . . ." (GaleNet LRC). Coming
back to the setting of the cemetery, we can envision the speaker standing a
short distance away from the grave watching the procession on its way. She
beholds before her the entire landscape as she watches the mourners approaching.

She captures the solemnity and motionlessness of death by implying that time
appears to stop for death. "When it comes, the Landscape listens- /

Shadows-hold their breath-" What Dickinson is trying to say is that death
is an irrefutable fact of life. It comes to everyone (as Horace says) and the
stagnancy of time revealed in the quote above is only a depiction of her
thoughts. Dickinson brings the reader face to face with reality. While death is
often ignored as a biological phenomena that does not influence one individual's
daily life, nature is accepted as the creator that sustains life on this planet.

But, Dickinson provides a new insight into this by describing nature as the
force that brings death to its subjects when the time has come. "As Nature
bring their weight of pain to bear upon the speaker, they are shown to have
injured and oppressed with a conscious will" (Griffith 28). She describes
to the reader the crude side of nature: the reality of life and the suddenness
of death. Contrary to common belief, "Mother Nature" is not quite
described as a loveable and caring person. " . . . Poets have grown
accustomed to thinking of Nature as a cuddly companion . . . Emily Dickinson's

Nature is no less personal or dynamic than this - and no less a Nature read by
the light of pathetic fallacy. It is simply that she sees as tigers what others
have mistaken for pets" (Griffith 28). This analogy of pets and tigers
describes Dickinson's contrasting views on life, death and nature as

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