The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –


“The Bustle in a House” first appears in Poems (1955). Versions of the poem can be accessed in the Franklin Variorum in 1998.  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. The use of capitalization on the words “Bustle,” “House,” “Morning”, and “Death” are key examples of Dickinson’s stress on  elements of the poem which anchor Dickinson’s key ideas about responding to death. Additionally, the use of contrasting language creates 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.”

“The Bustle in a House” 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 observed, “‘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 draws upon the reader’s emotions and feelings to create more emphasis and relatability on the theme of death. Dickinson uses dashes and capitalization to convey meaning in this relatively short poem. “The Bustle in the House” is an accurate and relatable poem documenting the scenes of someone who has come face to face with death.

Bibliography and Further Reading Emily Dickinson, “The Bustle in a House (1108),” Poetry Foundation.;“Emily Dickinson.” Poetry Foundation. Adrienne Rich, Vesuvius at Home, Parnassus Poetry in Review  5.1 (1976).

Credits Composed by Fletcher Rice, Fall 2018. Reading by Fletcher Rice.


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American Poetry and Poetics Copyright © 2017 by Mark C. Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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