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Poems

J280

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 -

c. 1861                1896

 

It is not clear whether this poem is another of Dickinson's many investigations of the epistemological frontier between life and death, language and silence, or whether she is using the image of death as a metaphor to talk about a profoundly life-altering experience. In either case, the final stanza suggests that Reason has its limits and that silence, or death, contains the ultimate knowledge that transcends all understanding.