I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
by Emily Dickinson
Stanza I Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
- The speaker feels a funeral inside her brain.
- The funeral is just starting, and the people who have come to mourn the dead person are milling around aimlessly, as people tend to do at tense social gatherings.
- It goes without saying that you can't actually host funerals in your brain. We're in the world of symbolism here.
- There are two other interesting things about this opening. First, the speaker doesn't want us to think she is comparing some other feeling to a funeral. She doesn't say, "It felt like a funeral in my brain." No, she says, "I felt a Funeral." In other words, the funeral seems totally real and not just the product of an overactive imagination.
- Second, she uses the anatomical word, "brain." The funeral starts out as a physical sensation. We'll see where she goes with this.
Kept treading–treading–till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through–
- The mourners keep walking inside the speaker's brain until it feels like sense is breaking through. That is, until she begins to experience the funeral as a physical sensation – as something she can perceive with her five senses.
- She repeats the word "treading" as if she's not happy about all this pacing back and forth.
- Also, "tread" suggests that the mourners are somehow violating her space. You may have heard the famous motto from the American Revolutionary War: "Don't tread on me." Well, the mourners are treading on the speaker.
- Finally, watch for images of cracking or breaking in this poem.