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I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain


by Emily Dickinson

Analysis: Form and Meter

Hymn-like Poem in Quatrains

Dickinson's poems are frequently compared to church hymns. Church hymns are often written in rhyming quatrains with a regular rhythm. We'll get to the rhythm in a minute, but a quatrain is just a stanza with four lines and some kind of rhyme scheme. In this poem, the rhyme scheme is ABCB: the second and fourth lines in each stanza rhyme.

Except they don't. Not exactly. Dickinson is famous for using slant rhymes, or words that sound similar but don't quite rhyme. "Fro" and "through" in the first stanza is an example. And then there's the final stanza, which doesn't rhyme at all, as if Dickinson were illustrating how her world falls apart.

The meter of the poem is iambic, with a stressed beat followed by an unstressed beat: "I felt a Fun-eral, in my Brain." Dickinson breaks most dramatically with the iambic rhythm in line 16, where the poem collides with the accented word "Wrecked" like a ship hitting a reef. Like we said, the meter follows the usual patterns of church hymns. One of the most common meters in hymns is 8/6, or an eight-syllable line followed by a six-syllable line. The poem stays mostly faithful to this pattern.

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