Skip over navigation

Dickinson’s Poetry

Emily Dickinson

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes—...”

“A Bird came down the Walk—...”

“I died for Beauty—but was scarce...”

Summary

The speaker notes that following great pain, “a formal feeling” often sets in, during which the “Nerves” are solemn and “ceremonious, like Tombs.” The heart questions whether it ever really endured such pain and whether it was really so recent (“The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore, / And Yesterday, or Centuries before?”). The feet continue to plod mechanically, with a wooden way, and the heart feels a stone-like contentment. This, the speaker says, is “the Hour of Lead,” and if the person experiencing it survives this Hour, he or she will remember it in the same way that “Freezing persons” remember the snow: “First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—.”

Form

“After great pain” is structurally looser than most Dickinson poems: The iambic meter fades in places; line-length ranges from dimeter to pentameter; the rhyme scheme is haphazard and mostly utilizes couplets (stanza-by-stanza, it is AABB CDEFF GHII); and the middle stanza is five lines long, rather than Dickinson’s typical four. Like most other Dickinson poems, however, it uses the long rhythmic dash to indicate short pauses.

Commentary

Perhaps Emily Dickinson’s greatest achievement as a poet is the record she left of her own inwardness; because of her extraordinary powers of self-observation and her extraordinary willingness to map her own feelings as accurately and honestly as she could, Dickinson has bequeathed us a multitude of hard, intense, and subtle poems, detailing complicated feelings rarely described by other poets. And yet, encountering these feelings in the compression chamber of a Dickinson poem, one recognizes them instantly. “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” describes the fragile emotional equilibrium that settles heavily over a survivor of recent trauma or profound grief.

Dickinson’s descriptive words lend a funereal feel to the poem: The emotion following pain is “formal,” one’s nerves feel like “Tombs,” one’s heart is stiff and disbelieving. The feet’s “Wooden way” evokes a wooden casket, and the final “like a stone” recalls a headstone. The speaker emphasizes the fragile state of a person experiencing the “formal feeling” by never referring to such people as whole human beings, detailing their bodies in objectified fragments (“The stiff Heart,” “The Feet, mechanical,” etc.).

More Help

Previous Next
The Brain is than the Sky' Dickinson crossword

by crosswords1, September 28, 2013

This time, we got the following crossword puzzle clue : The Brain is than the Sky' Dickinson that also known as The Brain is than the Sky' Dickinson 5 letters . First, we gonna look for more hints to the The Brain is than the Sky' Dickinson crossword puzzle . Then we will collect all the require information and for solving The Brain is than the Sky' Dickinson crossword . In the final, we get all the possible answers for the this crossword puzzle definition.
for more read

Read more

Hope poem analysis

by Nerradnahc, February 21, 2014

What is hope? Hope is what gives someone the feeling that they still can succeed even when everything is against them. It gives someone the will to go on even when there is only a small chance. In the poem “Hope” the poet Emily Dickinson describes hope as an never ending greatness that “perches in the soul”, it’s inside you and keeps you warm. Hope can not be put down easily and never ask for anything even in tough times. In this poem, Emily Dickinson describes hope as a lively, confident bird that go against chillest land and stra... Read more

0 Comments

20 out of 21 people found this helpful

Biblical Allusion

by 14elusky, April 13, 2014

I think it's possible that this poem has a biblical allusion when it refers to the bird. Dickinson was raised in the transcendentalist era, and there was a lot of criticism oriented around the bible. The allusion could be that Jesus was said to give bread to people of poverty. He then told them not to eat the bread without giving the crumbs to the bird. I think this relates to the poem because man and nature was seen as one, while now they are considered to be vastly divided.

I'm not religious so I have no idea if this is correct or ... Read more

0 Comments

4 out of 5 people found this helpful

Follow Us