"I Felt a Funeral in My Brain" by Emily Dickinson is
an interesting complex statement on ther relationship
between the body and the soul during a time of mental
anguish. The poet uses imagery to evoke the mind in a
state of mental shock.
This is a five stanza poem on the nature of mental
anguish. The poet conveys a sense of the mental pain which
is torturing her by speaking of the pain as if it were a
funeral being carried on in her mind. In the first stanza,
the poet states that she "felt a funeral" in her mind. She
focuses particularly on the heavy and constant tread of the
mourners\' feet, and says that it seemed as though the sense
were breaking into the world ordinarily reserved for the
In stanza two, the poet continues the figure of the
funeral. Now, with the mourners seated and the service
beginning, a drumming noise associated with the service
numbs her mind. The image of the seated mourners suggest
that some order has been restored. However, the mind is
again under attack, and the beating drum symbolizes the
waves of feeling which numb the mind.
In the third stanza, the poet states that she hears
the mourners lift the coffin. Again, they move slowly
across her soul with feet which seem encased in lead.
Am intensification of attack on the mind by bringing
together images of sound and weight is suggested. She
hears the mourners as they lift the coffin and begin to
move, and she feels their feet which seem to be encased in
In stanza four, the figure is continued in the sound
of a tolling bell. The heaven seems to have become a great
bell which is ringin, and all creation responds as though
it were an ear. In the last two lines, she introduces the
images of a shipwreck. The poet personifies silence, and
says that it seemed as though she and silence had been
stranded together, thus consulting an unusual race.
In the last stanza, the poet compares reason to a
plank of wood which breaks as a result of being
overstrained. The image is continued with the poet
dropping away from this broken plank into a universe
filled with new worlds. It suggests that the mental
anguish has become too much, and that the sense world had
won out and a complete mental bbreakdown had occurred.
The image is that of the speaker falling through infinite
space. It suggests that the order which the mind imposes
on reality has been disrupted, that the speaker is no
longer subject to the mind.