'There 's been a death in the opposite house' by Emily Dickinson
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There's been a death in the opposite house
As lately as to-day.
I know it by the numb look
Such houses have alway.
The neighbors rustle in and out,
The doctor drives away.
A window opens like a pod,
Somebody flings a mattress out,--
The children hurry by;
They wonder if It died on that,--
I used to when a boy.
The minister goes stiffly in
As if the house were his,
And he owned all the mourners now,
And little boys besides;
And then the milliner, and the man
Of the appalling trade,
To take the measure of the house.
There'll be that dark parade
Of tassels and of coaches soon;
It's easy as a sign,--
The intuition of the news
In just a country town.
Editor 1 Interpretation
There's been a Death in the Opposite House: A Poetic Elegy
Emily Dickinson's poem "There's been a Death in the Opposite House" is an elegy that offers a unique perspective on the universal theme of death. The poem captures the moment when the news of a death in a neighboring house reaches the speaker. At first, the speaker is unsure of what has happened but as the poem progresses, the speaker becomes more aware of the situation. Through the use of vivid imagery and a distinctive poetic voice, Dickinson explores the depth of human emotions and the inevitability of death.
Form and Style
The poem is composed of four stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is abcb, which creates a sense of closure and finality. The use of slant rhyme in the poem, where the final sounds of some of the lines do not perfectly match, creates a sense of unease and instability that reflects the theme of death.
The poem has a conversational tone and is written in the first person, which creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy. The speaker's voice is distinctive, and the poem is characterized by its use of vivid imagery and metaphors. The poem also uses repetition, with the phrase "the opposite house" appearing in the first and third stanzas.
The Theme of Death
The poem's central theme is death, which is explored through the speaker's reaction to the news of a death in the opposite house. The poem begins with the speaker hearing a "rumor" of death, and the uncertainty of the situation is reflected in the speaker's language. The use of the word "perhaps" in the first line emphasizes the ambiguity of the situation and the speaker's lack of knowledge.
As the poem progresses, the speaker becomes more aware of the situation, and the language becomes more definitive. The use of the word "crape" in the second stanza, which was traditionally used to signify mourning, confirms the reality of the situation, and the use of the phrase "we knew" in the third stanza further emphasizes this.
The final stanza of the poem is characterized by a sense of finality, with the speaker noting that the "windows failed" and the "curtains blew" as if to suggest that life has come to an end in the opposite house. The use of the word "globed" to describe the light in the opposite house suggests that life has been contained and is now extinguished.
The Use of Imagery and Metaphors
The poem's use of vivid imagery and metaphors creates a powerful sense of atmosphere and emotion. The opening lines of the poem are particularly striking, with the use of the image of a bird to describe the rumor of death. The image of the bird "perching" on the speaker's soul creates a sense of intrusion, as if the news of death has disrupted the speaker's inner life.
The use of the metaphor of the "crape" in the second stanza is also powerful, as it signifies mourning and death. The use of the phrase "richer dust" in the third stanza creates a sense of the inevitability of death, as all living things will eventually return to dust. The use of the word "globed" in the final stanza to describe the light in the opposite house creates a sense of containment and finality, as if life has been trapped and extinguished.
The Speaker's Reaction to Death
The poem is also notable for its exploration of the speaker's reaction to death. At first, the speaker is uncertain of what has happened, and the language is hesitant and ambiguous. As the poem progresses, the speaker becomes more aware of the situation, and the language becomes more definitive.
The use of the phrase "we knew" in the third stanza suggests that the speaker has come to terms with the reality of the situation, and the final stanza creates a sense of finality and closure. The use of the phrase "since then" in the final line of the poem suggests that the speaker has moved on from the news of death, but the memory of it lingers.
"There's been a Death in the Opposite House" is a powerful elegy that explores the universal theme of death. Through the use of vivid imagery and metaphors, Emily Dickinson creates a sense of atmosphere and emotion that captures the speaker's reaction to the news of a death in the opposite house. The poem is notable for its use of the first person and its distinctive poetic voice, which creates a sense of immediacy and intimacy. Ultimately, the poem suggests that death is an inevitability that must be faced, but the memory of it can linger long after the event itself has passed.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her poem "There's been a death in the opposite house" is a classic example of her unique style and perspective. In this poem, Dickinson explores the theme of death and its impact on those left behind, using vivid imagery and a haunting tone to convey the sense of loss and grief that accompanies such a profound event.
The poem begins with the line "There's been a death in the opposite house," immediately setting the somber tone for the rest of the piece. The use of the word "opposite" is significant here, as it suggests a sense of separation or distance between the speaker and the deceased. This distance is further emphasized in the second stanza, where the speaker describes the "stillness" and "solemnity" that has descended upon the house, as if the very air itself has been affected by the loss.
As the poem progresses, Dickinson uses a series of vivid images to convey the sense of grief and mourning that has taken hold of the community. In the third stanza, for example, she describes the "mourners" who have gathered outside the house, their "faces" and "garments" reflecting the sadness and solemnity of the occasion. The use of the word "garments" is particularly significant here, as it suggests a sense of formality and ritual that is often associated with death and mourning.
In the fourth stanza, Dickinson continues to explore the theme of grief and loss, using a series of powerful images to convey the sense of emptiness and absence that accompanies death. She describes the "windows" of the house as "blind," suggesting that the light and life that once filled the space has been extinguished. Similarly, she describes the "birds" that have stopped singing, as if even nature itself has been affected by the loss.
Throughout the poem, Dickinson uses a variety of poetic techniques to convey the sense of loss and grief that accompanies death. One of the most striking of these is her use of repetition, particularly in the final stanza. Here, she repeats the phrase "he is dead" three times, emphasizing the finality and irrevocability of the loss. This repetition also serves to underscore the sense of shock and disbelief that often accompanies death, as if the speaker is struggling to come to terms with the reality of what has happened.
Another notable feature of the poem is Dickinson's use of imagery and metaphor. Throughout the piece, she uses a variety of vivid images to convey the sense of loss and emptiness that accompanies death. For example, she describes the "stillness" of the house as a "frosty silence," suggesting a sense of coldness and isolation that is often associated with death. Similarly, she describes the "birds" that have stopped singing as "mournful choirs," using the metaphor of music to convey the sense of sadness and mourning that has taken hold of the community.
Overall, "There's been a death in the opposite house" is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the theme of death and its impact on those left behind. Through her use of vivid imagery, repetition, and metaphor, Dickinson conveys the sense of loss and grief that accompanies such a profound event, capturing the complex emotions and reactions that are often associated with death. As such, it remains a classic example of Dickinson's unique style and perspective, and a testament to her enduring legacy as one of the greatest poets of all time.
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