Tright here is a Languor of the LifeMore impending than Pain —"Tis Pain"s Successor — When the SoulHas suffered all it have the right to —A Drowsiness — diffoffers —A Dimness choose a FogEnvelops Consciousness —As Mists — obliteprice a Crag.The Surgeon — does not blanch — at painHis Halittle bit — is significant —But tell him that it ceased to feel —The Creature lying tright here —And he will tell you — skill is late —A Mightier than He —Has ministered before Him —There"s no Vitality. F552 (1863) J396I wouldn"t area this poem in the optimal 2 tiers of Dickinson"s work, despite the amazing assertion that post-pain languor or lethargy is "More brewing than Pain" and also the fairly wonderful second stanza. It"s the last stanza that kills it for me.The poem begins in familiar Dickinchild territory: the numb legacy of grief, treated notably in previously poems in phrases such as "The Feet, mechanical, go round – / A Wooden way"
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She switches then to the surgeon who does not hesitate to wield his scalpel despite the pain it causes. That pain tells him his patient and also her survival instinct are alive. But if the patient is so numb that she has actually "ceased to feel", he realizes it"s as well late for his skills. Tbelow isn"t any type of vitality there to conserve.The last line appears limp and dead to me (no pun intended). I"m not certain whom the "Mightier than He" refers to – maybe the mightiness of pain – or, heretically, God that deals blows to his Creatures. "Ministered", then, would certainly be ironic.
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Woe to her who suffers such ministrations!By Dickinson"s time trepanning and bloodletting were becoming rarer, although bloodletting was not uncommon. So I think her bringing in the Surgeon to close the poem is simply a way of saying that while the scalpel can cure the body, tbelow is no cure for a broken and lifeless heart.