nlike [the folk ballad] "Lord Randal," "Because Icould not stop for Death—" is written in what is usually called ballad measurein its neat, pure form--an obvious sign of its being a literary rather than an oralproduct. In the ballad measure, there are four beats per line, and four lines per stanza,as in "Lord Randal"; but here, the second and fourth lines leave the fourth beatin silence, as a musical rest. Words realize a pattern of four beats, then three, thenfour beats, then three. The silent beat at the end of the even-numbered lines adds a senseof cadential completion to the pattern, a completion supported by the rhymes between thesecond and fourth lines. One might think of them as elongations of the third beat to coverthe fourth, giving those lines a sense of finality and closure because of the double-longunit at the end. The ballad measure is also called the because it isused for hymns in the early versions of the it is often usedfor other Christian hymns as well (such as, for example, the American hymn "AmazingGrace"). If we consider the meter of the poem in semiotic terms, as a sign of thepoem's genre, then its ambiguity between the hymn and the ballad, the sacred and theprofane, will be important in our reading of the poem's thematic content. Necessarily, inorder to read that content, it will also be useful to glance at some other Dickinson poemsfor context. All of the ones to be cited will be in the ballad or common measure.


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