discovery route

Death is the classic metaphor for something that is in literature always poetical as an experience, but never as a written text. And it places the tenderness of the final line within a context in which excess is by definition harmless. Unless the tenderness comes from one side, of course. Which describes The Last Lover to a dot. And well-phrased as the metaphor may be, Dickinson has placed the comma behind ‘tender’ spot on. The culmination of metaphors therefore indicates that the narrator has good reason for wishing Death NOT to admit the mortal herds to his pen :

if                                        Death    =   the unilateral lover
and                                    Death    =   the ‘Oh’ in ‘love’
then                                  Death    =   worse than Death

Within context, ‘worse than death’ is an euphemism rather than a metaphor. One that writes the opening line as a sincere, and deeply felt, death wish. And it revokes any request to lock us mortals out. Tenderness, however, is not to be expected in an encounter that is defined by its (threat of) violence. Such an encounter is therefore ruled out from the start, by ‘music’ that identifies the death wish as purely metaphorical. And ‘death’ itself as imminent. This positive attitude is only dropped after revealing how close the two are : ‘too near thou art for seeking thee’. At which point you may have heard enough :


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