In Dickinson's poem, the speaker meets the personification of Death. Death is portrayed as a gentleman in the poem, riding in the horse carriage that transports the speaker to the hereafter. This poem is numbered "712" in Thomas H. Johnson's variorum edition from 1955. The title comes from a line in the first stanza which reads, "Death, who is it that stands beside me?"
The answer to this question is found in lines 45-46 of the poem: "It is I - for it cannot be / Any other way - and now / Our time is up". Here we can see that Death is the one who is standing by the poet, indicating that the poet has died and gone to heaven.
Further evidence can be seen in lines 51-55 where it states that the poet was "a friend to all", "an honorable man", and "a modest soul". These are all positive attributes that would fit well with someone who had just entered heaven.
In conclusion, the personification of Death in this poem is used to show how important it is to live each day as if it were your last because one day you will meet your end.
Death, disguised as a charming suitor, pulls over to pick up the speaker and take her on a journey in his horse-drawn carriage. In the last line, we learn that the speaker's encounter with Death occurred millennia ago (she's been dead for a long time)... but that now, hearing the sound of horses' hooves, she realizes that it is not night yet, which means that this must be early morning. She opens her eyes and sees flowers by the side of the road. Then, realizing that he has stopped the carriage, she calls out for help.
At this point, you will need to read the poem to find out what happens next.
The poem's narrator is deceased and on her way to her ultimate resting place. In this poem, death is represented as a courtly beau who gently asks that the speaker set aside both "work" and "pleasure." Death comes to a halt and snatches up the individual because no one wants to confront death. Everyone tries to escape it by working hard or enjoying themselves but in the end, none of them can avoid dying.
Now, what does the speaker put away? She leaves behind "all her labor, day by day," which includes all forms of work except poetry. Labor here means effort or activity. So, the poem's narrator rejects any form of effort after death arrives because there is nothing more for her to do. She has already completed everything there was to do on this earth.
This poem uses language and concepts from classical antiquity. The word "courtly" means noble or royal and describes someone who is well-bred, polite, and graceful. A "beau" is a handsome young man. So, the courtly beau is a noble gentleman who is also very attractive.
The poem contains many double meanings. For example, "her labor day by day" could also mean each day of her life. This idea is supported by the fact that the speaker refers to herself in the third person while talking about her own death. She says, "she will go under the ground," which implies that she will die soon.
Dickinson's speaker communicates from beyond the dead in this poem, chronicling her trip from life to the afterlife with Death, personified. The speaker is too busy for Death in the first verse ("Because I could not stop for Death—-"), so Death—-"kindly"—-takes the time to do what she cannot and pauses for her. In the second verse, the speaker realizes that Death has saved her life and they travel together down "the road less traveled by". This line comes from a Robert Frost poem called "The Road Not Taken", which compares two paths through a forest. Which path did the speaker take?
This question depends on how you read the poem. If you read it as one long sentence, then the speaker took the path away from the village because that is the only way out. Otherwise, someone would have to be walking down both roads at the same time which there isn't since we start with the speaker alone on a path near the village.
If you choose to interpret the poem as multiple sentences, then the speaker took the path away from the village even though it was "less traveled by". They found a way out of their predicament and now they are traveling together down "the road less traveled by". Here, the word "by" means "through" or "across". Therefore, this line comes after Death has crossed over a boundary or barrier and now they are on the other side.