‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’ is poem number 280 in Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poems. This intriguing poem presents a variety of enigmas for the reader, choose many of Emily Dickinson’s poems. In this article it is our intention to sell a short summary and also evaluation of ‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’ and also to attempt to clear ameans some of the obscurities and also ambiguities.

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I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,And Mourners to and also froKept treading – tanalysis – till it seemedThat Sense was breaking through –

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


And then I heard them lift a BoxAnd creak across my SoulWith those same Boots of Lead, aacquire,Then Void – started to toll,

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


And then a Plank in Reachild, damaged,And I dropped dvery own, and down –And hit a World, at eexceptionally plunge,And Finiburned understanding – then –

A brief summary of the poem easily reveals just how odd it is, also by Emily Dickinson’s wondercompletely eccentric standards. But then ‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’ is around going mad, about losing one’s grip on truth and feeling sanity slide amethod – at leastern, in one interpretation or analysis of the poem.


In the first stanza, the poem’s speaker uses the metaphor of the funeral for what is going on inside her head (we will certainly assume that the speaker is female here, though this is just surmise: Dickinboy frequently provides male speakers in her poetry). Her sanity and factor have passed away, and the chaos inside her mind is choose the mourners at a funeral walking backward and also forward.

The insistent repetition of ‘treading – treading’ evokes the hammering and turbulence within the speaker’s brain. These mourners sit down and also the organization takes location, featuring initially a drum beating and then – following the creaking lift of the lid of a box – a sound that reminds the speaker of a bell (saying the tolling of a funeral bell to announce someone’s death).


Yet, as so frequently with an Emily Dickinkid poem, the definition is not – cannot – be as straightforward as this. The funeral argues the loss of somepoint, yet is it factor and sanity that are shed, or is it factor and sanity that kill off something else? Who, or what, is this ‘Funeral in my brain’ for? The poem withholds this information.

Note exactly how at the end of that first stanza, Dickinson’s speaker states that ‘it appeared / That Sense was breaking through’. If sense – common sense, reason, sanity – is breaking through, that can suggest that they are making progress, that sense is conquering irrationality and also it is unfactor, quite than factor, that has actually died.


This is, possibly, an inevitable part of acquiring old: we shed our sense of fun, our childfavor irrationality as our mind hardens right into reason and sense (and being sensible). Part of the difficulty lies in exactly how we check out the phrase ‘breaking through’, which can either suppose ‘coming into view’ (favor a shaft of sunlight via a gap in the curtains) or ‘falling and collapsing’ through somepoint, such as the floorboards. (Note, in this link, the picture of the ‘plank’ later in the poem.)

What’s even more, a funeral is traditionally a solemn and also sober affair, formal and also orderly: more evocative of sensible reason than wild irrationality. If irrationality (or madness) had actually broken via and taken over rather, wouldn’t we intend something more chaotic and also disorderly to be going on than a funeral, through the mourners ‘seated’ and also the mind going ‘numb’?


The last parts of the poem seem to indicate that we were probably ideal first time, yet, and also that the speaker has lost her mind: the speaker finds herself along with ‘Silence’, solitary favor a shipwrecked perchild. And then, maybe helped alengthy by this solitude and silence, a ‘Plank in Reason’ broke, and the speaker explains the adhering to sensation as choose falling via the floor. She loses her feeling of being grounded and stable, falling ‘down, and also down’. It shows up that she has actually lost her factor. Yet the final line of Dickinson’s poem is ambiguous:

And Finished understanding – then –


‘Finished knowing’ as in quit discovering something, or finished up by learning something? ‘Finimelted knowing’ is ambiguous. Does the speaker acquire or shed knowledge at the finish of the poem? And if she does acquire expertise, expertise of what?

‘I felt a Funeral in my Brain’ is one of Emily Dickinson’s many puzzling poems in that its definition could be understood in 2 exceptionally divergent methods. The ambiguities aren’t ssuggest a matter of distinction in meaning, but of sheer opplace. Whose funeral is it anyway? Our evaluation cannot answer that question. We welcome your thoughts on a truly troubling, but brilliant, poem.


About Emily Dickinson

Perhaps no other poet has attained such a high reputation after their death that was unrecognized to them in the time of their life time. Born in 1830, Emily Dickinson lived her totality life within the few miles approximately her hometvery own of Amherst, Massachusetts. She never married, despite numerous romantic correspondences, and also was better-well-known as a gardener than as a poet while she was alive.

However, it’s not fairly true (as it’s periodically alleged) that namong Dickinson’s poems was publiburned during her very own lifetime. A handful – fewer than a dozen of some 1,800 poems she created in total – showed up in an 1864 anthology, Drum Beat, publiburned to raise money for Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War. But it was 4 years after her fatality, in 1890, that a book of her poetry would certainly appear before the Amerideserve to public for the first time and also her posthumous career would certainly start to take off.

Dickinson gathered approximately eight hundred of her poems right into little manuscript publications which she lovingly put together without telling anyone. Her poetry is instantly recognisable for her idiosyncratic usage of dashes in location of various other develops of punctuation. She commonly supplies the four-line stanza (or quatrain), and also, unusually for a nineteenth-century poet, utilises pararhyme or half-rhyme as often as full rhyme. The epitaph on Emily Dickinson’s gravestone, written by the poet herself, attributes simply two words: ‘dubbed back’.

Continue to check out Dickinson’s poeattempt via Dickinson’s wonderful snake poem, ‘A narrowhead Other in the Grass’, her ‘My Life had actually stood – a Loaded Gun’., and also her poem ‘Due to the fact that I can not stop for Death’. If you want to own all of Dickinson’s wonderful poetry in a single volume, you can: we recommfinish the Faber edition of her Complete Poems

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The writer of this short article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary movie critic and also lecturer in English at Loughbounstable College. He is the writer of, among others, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Thunstable Curiosities of History

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 and The Great War, The Waste Land also and also the Modernist Long Poem.

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Image: Black/white photograph of Emily Dickinboy by William C. North (1846/7), Wikimedia Commons.