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'After a great pain, a formal feeling comes' Emily Dickinson
Transcript of 'After a great pain, a formal feeling comes' Emily Dickinson
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 -
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought -
A Wooden way
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 - The poem describes great physiological and mental pain. similarly to 'I felt a funeral...' this poem uses concrete images and language to an abstract concept - pain.
Rather than focusing on pain, 'a formal feeling comes' arguing that the result of emotional anguish is control.
Dickinson anatomises the speaker portraying her as a series of body parts which are given their own individual existence rather than a whole. Again, like 'I felt a funeral in my brain' the poem moves towards "The Hour of Lead", suggesting a numbness that stays with the speaker though it's "outlived", ending with the analogy of freezing to death to depict the experience of great pain. Simile emphasises formality,
evokes image of funeral Personification of nerves creates tension Capitalised pronoun 'He' biblical reference, liking pain to Jesus' suffering on cross heart confused of when suffering started- confused syntax Dickinson anatomises the speaker, portraying the narrator as a series of body parts with their own individual existence.
'Mechanical' pain is extreme, like joints slowly turning.
'Wooden' implies aimlessness, contrast with control in 'I felt a funeral...'
Stanza structure mirrors the feet which go nowhere.
'Quartz contentment' merges concrete with abstract; 'Like a stone' implies numbness while she finds contentment in numbness. how the mind is left: Dickinson uses concrete time like 'the banks of noon' in 'a bird came down the walk', however it is oppressive in this instance - much like the 'certain slant of light', 'Heft of cathedral tunes'.
'As Freezing persons': the analogy of the person freezing to death. Dickinson summarises the whole poem: we feel pain, then we have a response ('a formal feeling'), then 'let[ting] go' however the dash at the end implies the pain doesn't stop instantly. regular pauses in the last line mirror the final breaths of the freezing person. personified 'heart' that 'questions' emphasises need for control