The structure of this poem is complex and it tied directly into the figurative meaning. This poem consists of three quatrains written in iamic meter but with no set number of feet per line. Also, the second and fourth lines of each quatrain thyme somewhat. Perhaps the most perplexing attribute of the structure is that Dickinson capitalizes words in mid-sentence that would not normally be capitalized.
This could represent decaying objects; capitalized words represent things still standing and lowercase words represent things decayed. This poem is choppy at timed, but it flows smoothly at others. Long hyphens throughout the poem slow down reading speed. This could be compared to the rate of decay.
Sometimes decay is rapid, sometimes it is slow. the last three parts of the poem’s structure help create its figurative meaning. Imagery is Dickinson’s main figurative tool in this poem. the idea that crumbling is progressive is supported by the last two lines of the first stanza, which state, "Dilapidation’s processes Are organized Decays" This means that crumbling is a result of dilapidation, which is caused by gradual decay. The deterioration that results is progressive: one stage of decay leads to the next until crumbling inevitably comes along.
The second stanza contains four images of decay: "cobweb, rust, dust and borer in the axis. " These images are combined with specific details which give them a deeper meaning. The dust is a "cuticle," which suggests that it is at the edges. The "cobwebs on the soul" suggest spiritual deterioration (cobwebs symbolizing neglect).
"Elemental" rust means basic corrosion and corruption. the "borer in the axis" represents something that eats a person from the inside out. In the third stanza, the word "ruin" is perhaps the most suitable word for describing both physical and spiritual collapse. "Devil’s work" speaks for itself–the devil is evil, ruin is evil. this poem can describe any type of ruin: personal, emotional, financial. The literal meaning of this poem is simple–ruin does not happen suddenly.
It is actually a gradual process that is the result of continuous, small-scale decay. Every type of ruin takes time. Granted, one type might take more time than another, but it all takes time. I totally understand and agree with this poem. It is very true.
A prime example of the reality of this poem is the condition of our cows. They are extremely poor and hungry, but this was not the result of something that happened overnight. Lack of rain caused lack of grass, and therefore, our cows are hungry. This poem can be applied to any other form of ruin that can be found.