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After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes

Theresa Sowerby | Monday September 03, 2012


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Introduction and Biography | Features of Dickinson’s Style | Themes and Subject Matter | Poem by Poem Analysis | Sample Answer

A Selection of Poems

Based on the requirements of OCR unit F661.

Note: individual analyses with potential links with other poems marked in blue.


  1. Poem 258: There’s a certain Slant of Light
  2. Poem 280: I felt a Funeral in my Brain
  3. Poem 341: After great pain, a formal feeling comes
  4. Poem 465: I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
  5. Poem 501: This World is not Conclusion
  6. Poem 510: It was not Death, for I stood up
  7. Poem 712: Because I could not stop for Death
  8. Poem 721: Behind Me - dips Eternity
  9. Poem 754: My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
  10. Poem 1400: What mystery pervades a well!
  11. Poem 670: One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted & Exemplar Exam Answer

3. Poem 341: After great pain, a formal feeling comes

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Points to consider:

  • What experience is the speaker describing?
  • Do you notice anything interesting about the metre?
  • Is it possible to group together certain words or references to help you to understand the meaning and structure of the poem?


The metre of this poem is varied but is unusual for Dickinson in that she uses a dominant iambic pentameter for much of the first stanza as well as the final two lines. These lines are also all in rhyming couplets. The middle section is different, using a varied metre to create a more fragmented effect. For developed comment on metre see below.

Stanza 1 states the...

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