There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.
None may teach it anything,
‘Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.
When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.
The poem by Emily Dickinson talks about the somber mood of a winter afternoon which is oppressive and hangs like death. The cathedral tunes are heavy enough and like them the winter evening slant ,instead of flooding the place with orange light ,has filled it with gloom. The despondency is beyond amelioration as though it has come from the heavens and the seal seems irrevocably fixed.
While the poem is about death and is pretty gloomy, the imagery in the last stanza is brilliant. ‘When it comes, the landscape listens and shadows hold their breath “- is a pretty evocative image. The beauty of the image is achieved through humanizing abstract entities like “a certain slant of light”,” landscape”,” shadows”. The last line “it is like the distance/On the look of death” is another highly visual image referring to the blank stare of a dead person which appears focused on a far away thing.