From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
When Death Comes

When Death Comes


by Mary Oliver

When Death Comes Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

"When Death Comes" is a free verse poem. That is, it doesn't follow any particular formal structure of rhyme or meter. Still, there is a definite rhetorical structure: 'When _____, I want to ____....


Our speaker, the way we picture it, is a thoughtful woman who lives in a rural area. Although death is the major focus of the poem, and death is clearly connected to the body, our speaker doesn't r...


In a general sense, this poem has a rural feel. It seems to take place somewhere where you might occasionally encounter a bear, where the locals would know which flower is a field daisy, and where...

Sound Check

This poem pulls together a lot of threads, in terms of tone. It's like our speaker has pulled us aside to confide her personal philosophy on life and death. We can tell she's serious, but the way s...

What's Up With the Title?

The title of this poem is short and simple. It alerts us to the poem's concerns (i.e., death and thoughts springing from the arrival of death), it's just a few words, and it's the same as the first...

Calling Card

Mary Oliver's poems are remarkably consistent in their approach. She experiments with several styles in terms of line breaks and structure and length, and takes on the big themes of life and death...


This poem covers some big topics and packs a lot of thought and wisdom. Yet it also manages to be wonderfully clear and accessible.

Brain Snacks

Sex Rating

A mention of brides and bridegrooms might imply sex, but this poem is pretty non-sexual in its passion. Though we do get a glimpse of shoulder blades (scandalous!).

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...