Emily Dickinson Commentary

The Bustle in a House (1108)
The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –


The poem was initially published in 1890 in Emily Dickinson’s famous “Aftermath” collection. Though the poem was published after Dickinson’s death in 1886 it has been speculated based on journal entries that “The Bustle in a House” was initially written around 1866.

“The Bustle in a House” is structured in two quatrains, and much like a majority of Dickinson’s work this particular piece is rooted with iambic pentameter, em dashes and specified capitalization for additional strength. Her use of capitalization on words such as, “Bustle”, “House”, “Morning”, and “Death” are key examples of Dickinson’s additional stress on crucial elements to her poem. Additionally, her use of contrasting language creates almost a playful nature between the roles of humanity and death within this particular poem; whereas, she takes on a more serious nature in poems like “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”.

Dickinson’s poem creeps along with an acute attention to the effects death has on not only an individual, but to the toll death has on the world around it. As W.D. Howells describes, “‘The Bustle in a House’ and poems like it are ‘terribly unsparing … but true to the grave and certain as mortality.’” Though the poem may be morbid in theme and nature, Dickinson has an expertise and ability to uncover the feelings and emotions of her readers.

In her traditional style Dickinson adds crucial stress into her poem via dashes and capitalization, and is thus able to convey deeper meaning into her relatively short poems. “The Bustle in the House” is no different as Dickinson creates an accurate and relatable poem documenting the scenes of someone who has come face to face with death.

Bibliography and Further Reading Dickinson, Emily. “The Bustle in a House (1108) by Emily Dickinson.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Web. “Emily Dickinson.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, Web. House.”, “The Bustle in a. “The Bustle in a House.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed, Encyclopedia.com, 2018, Web.

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