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I Felt a Funeral in my Brain

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.

Contents

  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

2. Poem 280: 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 -

Points to consider:

This is a challenging poem, whose meaning is still very much debated. A suggested “way into it? which you may find helpful it to look for certain predominant features, which give the poem structure:

  • The metaphor of a funeral is carried through. Look for specific features of a funeral service that are mentioned.
  • There is a semantic field of sound. Again look for references to the sense of hearing or music.
  • Pick out the nouns which have been given capital...

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