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 —

Dive in
  1. What’s the mood of the speaker? Does it shift before the poem ends? Where?
  2. How does sound appear throughout the poem? What are your associations with drums? What about bells?
  3. There are different interpretations of what is happening in this poem — what’s your take? Do you think the experience the speaker describes sounds terrible or exciting?
  4. In what ways is this poem about a connection to something mysterious? In what ways does it seem to be about the rupture of connection?
  5. Do you think this poem says more about death or life?
  6. Where would you pause if you were reciting this poem? What tone would you use, and where might you change the tone?
  7. Imagine what it might feel like for your consciousness to be disconnected from your body — what would that feel like? And what would it feel like to return abruptly to everyday life? Write a short poem about this imagined experience. Think about the sound and rhythm of the words you choose.



Here’s a peppy video about Emily Dickinson:


Here’s a six-minute breakdown on the poem by a prof online who calls this a “ceremony of transformation”:




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Bibliographical info

THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON: VARIORUM EDITION, edited by Ralph W. Franklin, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © renewed 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1942 by Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Copyright © 1952, 1957, 1958,1963, 1965 by Mary L. Hampson.

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