Emily Dickinson’s Poems and Topic of Death
Many poets are excited by the theme of death, seeing it as an existential transition from one state to another. For some poets, as can be seen, death is an emotional blow. Emily Dickinson embraces and admires death and views him as a romantic guide, whereas Dylan Thomas is desperate in the face of death and treats him like a foe to be challenged. For Emily Dickinson, death is a slow and caring man leading her to immortality, while for Dylan Thomas, death is despair and anxiety that needs to be overcome.
Emily Dickinson uses accepting language to describe death, while Dylan Thomas is defiant towards death. Emily Dickinson always speaks with reverence about death: “He kindly stopped for me” (“The Poems of Emily Dickinson” 298). She comes to terms with death, not in a negative way, but in a positive way, feeling safe and liberated. Emily Dickinson adopts the opposition of death and immortality as if death were the path to immortality and gaining eternity. In contrast, Dylan Thomas applies words associated with anger and resentment. Death is a terrible loss that is almost impossible to comprehend and accept: “Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright / Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay” (Thomas). He is terrified, he has no choice, therefore the poet regrets. He is overwhelmed with uncontrollable sadness, and he does not know how to deal with it.
Emily Dickinson not only accepts death but also uses romantic language to characterize him, whereas Dylan Thomas is eager to fight death. Emily Dickinson expresses it this way: “He knew no haste / And I had put away / My labor and my leisure too” (“The Poems of Emily Dickinson” 298). Dylan Thomas is unable to take death and cannot work with romantic rhetoric towards it. His dominant rhetoric is emotion-driven anger; by repeating this line, he puts emphasis on his anger and loops it: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” (Thomas). With correctly placed accents, it is easier for the reader to catch the degree of emotional tension.
In contrast to Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas approaches death with desperation. Emily Dickinson connects her death journey to the opportunity to reach eternity through a carefree childhood: “We passed the School, where Children strove” (“The Poems of Emily Dickinson” 298). Perhaps this slowness is the awareness of the transience of life. Dylan Thomas’ despair borders on an emotional breakdown: “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray” (Thomas). The protagonist is filled with irrational contradictions and asks for a curse and a blessing at the same time.
In conclusion, it is important to say that death has always been and will be one of the central figures in poetry. The phenomenon of death, emotionally and existentially charged with meanings, excites other people. Interpretations of the coming of death and attitudes towards it can be very different depending on the feelings of the author. Emily Dickinson construes the arrival of death through the language of acceptance and calm, while Dylan Thomas expresses total disagreement; he is ready to become a fighter against death. Emily Dickinson romanticizes death and animates it in the form of a man. Dylan Thomas defines death with the pain of loss and resentment. In addition, Dylan Thomas is unable to put up with death, so his psyche gives a reaction of despair. Emily Dickinson perceives death in an ambivalent and contradictory way: as a bridge to immortality.
The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, Harvard U Press, 1998, p. 546.
Thomas, Dylan. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Academy of American Poets.