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Images of Death in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Author: Nabil Mohammed Ali نبيل محمد علي
Journal: AL - Bahith AL - A’alami مجلة الباحث الاعلامي ISSN: 1995 8005 / EISSN 2617 9318 Year: 2009 Volume: 2 Issue: 5 Pages: 1-10
Publisher: Baghdad University جامعة بغداد


Death is a theme which has elicited much deep and varied emotions from poets through the ages. Accordingly, they have meditated and emotionally and lyrically responded to it. A memorable example is King Lear lamenting the death of his daughter, Cordelia:
No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all?Thou' It come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!( Act V, Scene III)( 1)
Thomas H. Johnson, while recognizing that many poets have made death central in much of their poetry, also believes that “ Emily Dickinson did so in hers to an unusual degree.”(2) Death is a prevalent theme in Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Her poems on this theme are scattered through the two volumes which contain her poetic works. It has been mentioned that at least a quarter of all her works deals chiefly with this theme.( 3) Her critics have noted the prominence of the theme of death in her poetry. George Frisbie Whicher, for example, states that Dickinson “ recurred to it{ the subject of death}more frequently than to any other.”(4)Richard chase mentions that” in the large majority of Emily Dickinson’s poems, from the least impressive to the most, there are intimations of Death.”(5)Charles R. Anderson points out that death and immortality were “the two profoundest themes that challenged her poetic powers.”(6) A thorough analysis of her death poetry reveals that there are four major categories: (1) poems dealing with death and immortality,(2) poems dealing with the physical aspects of death,(3) poems that personify death, and(4)elegiac poems.


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