“It was not death for I stood up” Analysis

The narrator’s ratiocination of her emotional landscape forms the argument of this poem as she persists in establishing an understanding of her anguish or “it” with imagery relating to death, darkness, cold and heat.
The narrator ruminates upon her present psychological frame of mind as she logically eliminates possible states of being (being dead, in night, in winter, being burnt by fire) that could account for her emotions. Her reasoning is as below: She is not dead as she could stand and the dead could not. The darkness that swallows her up is not night as she could hear the afternoon bells “put(ting) out their tongues”/ringing. The coldness that she felt is not “frost” as she could feel “siroccos” (A hot, dry wind ) ‘crawl on her flesh’. The heat or burning sensation is not ‘fire’ for her “marble (cold) feet” could keep cool the passionate choir singing and warm-blooded clergy preaching.
Yet, she “taste them all”- the agony of death, darkness and the extremes of coldness and heat. She is reminded of her own death by the ‘figures’ she has seen getting prepared for burial in which she imagined herself to be, too, imprisoned in the frame of a coffin and getting ready for burial “shaven” of all things merry and “fitted to a frame” rigid, confined and “could not breathe without a key”. The key in this case might be the freedom in contrast to her confinement, hope in contrast to the death of hope, understanding in contrast to the lack of understanding of her current state of being. And in extension of the imagery of darkness, she pictures herself as very dead of the night/midnight- being in infinite darkness.
When time stops and isolation in which she feels small with “space” “staring all around” sets in. Or the desolation she felt with the macabre “frost”/ice and the leaves from “first autumn mornings” that “repeals” /cover and eliminates the “beating ground”; A feeling that smothers her beating heart. But finally, she concludes that it is mostly like being in a state of evolutionary, chaotic flux, “stopless” and “cool”; like being in the endless and cold sea after a psychological shipwreck in which nothing , “a chance” or “spar” (a strong pole used for a mast) or “report of land” could save her; not even a shimmer of hope in finding her “key”.


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