Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, AFTER GREAT PAIN A FORMAL FEELING COMES, by EMILY DICKINSON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

AFTER GREAT PAIN A FORMAL FEELING COMES, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"After great pain a formal feeling comes" is a poem by Emily Dickinson, an American poet who lived from 1830 to 1886. The poem was first published posthumously in 1896. 

The poem describes the experience of a formal feeling that comes after a period of great pain. The nerves are described as sitting ceremonious, like tombs, suggesting a sense of formality and detachment. The heart questions whether it was the one that bore the pain, and whether it happened yesterday or centuries before, suggesting a sense of dissociation and detachment from time.

The feet are described as mechanical, going around in a wooden way, regardless of whether they are on the ground, in the air, or somewhere else. The speaker suggests that there is a sense of contentment, like a stone, that comes with this formal feeling.

The final stanza describes this period as the "Hour of Lead," suggesting a sense of heaviness and weight. The experience is remembered as freezing persons remember the snow, with a first chill, then stupor, and then the letting go.

The poem explores the experience of pain and the sense of detachment and formality that can come after a period of intense suffering. The detachment and formality are described as a kind of protection or coping mechanism, allowing the speaker to detach from the pain and continue on with life. The heaviness and weight of the experience are also emphasized, suggesting the lingering impact of the pain. Overall, the poem suggests a complex and nuanced experience of pain and recovery.

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