My first impression of this poem was that it was about death. It makes me feel inquisitive, yet, at the same time, intrigued. A line that especially evokes the first feeling for me is, “Because I could not stop for Death- He kindly stopped for me.” The other feeling – Intrigued- arises when I read the line(s), “The Carriage held but just Ourselves- And Immortality”. Perhaps because the speaker is talking about how they didn’t choose to die, life did and that they are now on their way to their final resting place.
What I know about the situation – what’s happening in the poem – is that the speaker has died and is on their way to eternity. What I know about the speaker is that they are the kind of person who is very reflective. This is suggested by the lines “We passed the School, where Children strove, At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun – ”. The speaker seems to be speaking to people that are alive. I say this because it seems like the speaker is telling them that death can come at anytime. The poem doesn’t seem to spring from a particular historical moment or culture. The poem revolves around several themes, including death and dying.
If this poem were a question, the answer would be “Death stops for you”. If it were an answer, question would be “What if you can’t stop for death?” The title suggests that the poem is about their journey out of the mortal world to eternity.
The poem’s form is a dramatic monologue and an elegy. These forms are a vehicle for the content of the poem. If the poem were a sonnet, it would not guide me toward an understanding of the poem’s meaning. These forms shape my understanding of the poem because the speaker is telling a story of their life, which is a monologue, but it is also an elegy because it is a serious way to mourn their life.