Monday, February 25, 2008



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--

Emily Dickinson, 1861

When I first read this poem, I assumed it was about death. I took the funeral imagery literally, and did not look further. The ending, particularily, struck me as the expression of the unknowable aspect of death.

But I was rather young and had not yet experienced what Emily describes here. It was only years later, after a bout of extreme mental stress that I gained a new insight to this poem. To ease the restless repetitive thoughts in my brain, I took to pacing. And the rhythm of that pacing was perfectly echoed in the poem. I could feel those same boots of lead in my head, wearing away at the thin layer of sense, and even through the numbness, I could hear the drums beating as well.

It was a time of strange dichotomy. I could see myself, as though from the outside, and I could see that I was losing my grip on reason. But at the same time, the thoughts crowded out that more rational view and I gave myself over to the rhythm of the pacing, and the rhythm of the thoughts.

The planks of reason held for me, though. I did not drop down and down. But the thought that I might have, that I came close to that loss of inner self-control haunts me to this day. Mostly, I think, because I do not know what brought me out of it.


TheAmber said...


lizardrinking said...

I would imagine that the walking in all shapes and forms would help you come out of it, but especially the communing with nature. I cannot say it happens to us all, but it does happen. I read of a woman who lost her partner, for a year she just didn't know who she was for that year. It's kinda interesting, though not desirable while going through it. If you were into astrology, you'd be happy to know that Pluto finally left your sign after a long 12 years just recently, but I know you're not :)

anglophile said...

You know, rose, now that you mention it, this little episode took place at the end of a rather harsh winter. The following spring was particularily beautiful and mild. Maybe that is what snapped me out of it. Anyway, no worries, really. Quite, quite sane! :)

Oh, and I don't know about Pluto, but I'd be happy for good influences from the stars!

lizardrinking said...

No, Pluto is a mean bastard! Or is rumoured to give everything a good shake-up anyway. Now things are returning to even-keel. As for me being sane, well, I don't know ;)