The Feelings of the Speaker in I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain
The poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (340)” by the infamous Emily Dickinson suggests many topics such as entering a world of a psychotic episode, experiencing the death and/or burial of something within the mind, an explanation of the feeling of self obliteration, and the showing of feeling complete isolation and the fear and panic that lingers with it, but with such a poet like her, as well as poetry itself, the poem means something different to each person who dares to enter such a world.
The speaker seems to be suffering from psychosis as they seem to travel through different realms of their mind, and the poet doesn’t offer much information if any at all to the physical environment. Being sensible, emotionally intense, feeling isolated completely, as well as madness, all pertain to the persona of the poem, for the narrator explains very intricately this experience and how it’s going play by play while also showing the depth in it all. Though the narrator and poet have their own roles in poetry, the two are relatively the same in Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (340)”. In fact, Dickinson’s works often reflect her true self. As an excellent thinker, observant hawk, and in her own isolated world, you can really see Emily Dickinson through her poetry, that is, if you can comprehend it. She has gone through hell and back and tells us her tales of woe through her poetry. This poem in particular shows her more evolved side.
The third and fourth lines give the reader so much in those few words: Kept treading – treading – till it seemed That sense was breaking through. The beating pulse of her mind and thoughts shows the reader just how much is really going on in her head that a stranger on the street would not be able to see. The title of the poem — and the first line — gives the reader a little push through the door and to help them enter into the chaotic world of the speaker’s mind. In this twenty line, five stanza poem, a lot is going on. In stanzas 2-4, the rhyme scheme is ABCB, and the first and last stanza don’t have any type of rhyme scheme. There is a constant order of lines in each stanza which is four. The use of dashes between ideas both makes a point and separates ideas to make the reader take in all the things going simultaneously. In the first two stanzas, the third lines in Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (340)” are the same and make a point at the beginning of the poem. “Kept treading – treading – till it seemed / That sense was breaking through” (lines 3-4) and ” Kept beating – beating – till I thought / My mind was going numb” (7-8) Enjambment runs throughout the majority of the poem even though there is no legitimate punctuation except for dashes between thoughts. In “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)”, it begins with a metaphor comparing the mental situation of the speaker with a funeral “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” (1). Though she may write some very intense poetry, Emily Dickinson sneaks in a little informality into the third and seventh lines with the word “till” “Kept treading – treading – till it seemed” (3) and “Kept beating – beating – till I thought” (7). The poet throws a lot at the reader with the scene. At first we’re at a funeral, and then we’re going more insane and losing consciousness at the same time.
Imagery is one of the key elements that Emily Dickinson uses to explain with detail what the heck is going on inside a chaotic mind. To tie it all up, she sprinkles personification throughout. In lines 6-7, the funeral service is explained as a drum beating. Line 12 tells how “space” “tolls” after being wrecked solitary with silence. Silence is said to be wrecked and as “some strange Race” with the speaker in lines 15-16. Towards the end of the poem, line 17 states how the speaker falls through the realms of their mind as this “Plank in Reason” breaks. This is perfect for a poem like this, for the concepts like comforting silence and pulsing beats of a funeral service couldn’t be explained better. The last line of the poem is ended with an off and a little ominous note “And Finished knowing – then -” (20). She has possibly reached full insanity and lost control of knowing what’s what.
There are many interpretations of the last line so not much can be said for sure. After reading through the poem and taking a long, meandering path through the speaker’s brain/mind, you can tell that it gives off an eerie, depressing, chaotic, and frenzied (if you will) vibe. Even in the first line, it shows it. Words like funeral, mourners, treading, numb, beating, sense, creak, soul, space, toll, heavens, solitary, silence, wrecked, and reason all give off the vibes listed above. In order to help the reader focus on what’s going on in this crazed poem, the poet uses a continuous plot up until the point where the speaker “Finished knowing” (20).
The poem starts off very straightforward and sets the serious mood with “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” (1). “And Mourners to and fro / Kept treading – treading – till it seemed / That Sense was breaking through” (2-4) Here, the mourners are pacing before the service starts as most would do at funerals. Their pacing is so loud that the narrator almost has the sense (reality) knocked back into them. Dickinson’s use of capitalization in her poetry makes a point and brings the reader to really think about what’s so important about a word capitalized that typically doesn’t need to be. As you can see, the word mourners and sense are both capitalized possibly as a focus point. “And when they all were seated, / A Service, like a Drum – / Kept beating – beating – / till I thought / My mind was going numb -” (5-8) Now the service is actually starting. The chaos in the brain is so pulsating like a drum, and everything that’s going on is getting overwhelming. In the previous stanza, Dickinson refers to the setting as her brain, but as things intensify, the sensation of the funeral becomes more mental as she now calls it her mind.
When she mentions the mind going numb, we now know that it’s too late. No returns. The door back to reality is now closed, and we’re going downhill. “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,” (9-12) The funeral is almost over now, and the box (casket) is being carried out to be buried. They “creak across” the soul, so they’re probably putting the dirt on top of the casket now unless she means that it’s sort of a mocking thing to do. Notice how the speaker recognizes the “Boots of Lead”, so this probably has happened more than once which explains how the speaker seems overpowered by this situation and mocked by the people.
The speaker is slowly losing their mind again. Space is beginning to toll, so it’s coming a little bit at a time. We’re now at the start of another realm that has even more twists and turns. “As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And Being, but an Ear, / And I, and Silence, some strange Race, / Wrecked, solitary, here -” (13-16) We’ve now reached the deepest part of the speaker’s mind. There’s nothing to hear except for the silence surrounding, and silence is the only thing to accompany her. She’s now comparing herself to silence stating they’re the same race and “Wrecked, solitary, here -“. We can only assume we are experiencing the depths of her mind as of now since she very vaguely explains that they are “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 -” (17-20) When this plank in reason breaks, it all goes down. As if the floor is sanity, it breaks and the speaker completely loses it. She keeps plummeting and hitting worlds as she descends into madness. The last line is very complicated to interpret. She may have passed out, made the last of a thought or part of herself (since this is a funeral we’re talking about), or might have reached the gates of insanity itself (and now she cannot make sense of anything anymore hence explaining how she finished knowing).
From the first line to the last in Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)”, I can feel my emotions pouring out as I speak her words. Sure, I have felt the emotions of this poem for years now, but when put in these words, I feel like it’s a whole new world. Emily Dickinson made me see emotions so vividly rather than feeling them first hand when I read this poem. Where has she been my whole life? Normally, I wouldn’t have compared my mind to a funeral, but reading this was a revelation in a sense. To me, the last stanza was the most powerful because of the deep plunge into wherever it is that the speaker imagines as insanity. Moreover, this poem is relatable, eerie, depressing, and crazy, and now it’s one of my favorites. Works CitedDickinson, Emily. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)” Poetry Out Loud Website 2018 http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poems/detail/45706 Accessed 9 January 2018
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