Poem of the week: Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

Context

Dickinson wrote the poem in 1861, during one of her most prolific periods as a poet. She makes use of metaphor and an experimental form to imply the poem’s themes.

Themes

“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” is about going mad and losing touch with reality. The metaphor of a funeral happening within her head sets the stage for the rest of the poem to unfold. Throughout the poem, the reader gets the sense that the speaker is slowly losing touch with reason. The speaker’s thoughts grow more and more fragmented, notice the dashes, until the last stanza, where the speaker’s ability to reason finally breaks and she tumbles toward despair. The poem ends with the line “And Finished knowing – then -“, suggesting that the speaker knows reason no more.