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 —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,


  1. Amanda says:

    I have always read the poem to have military undertones. When you hear words such as… “treading” … “Service” … “Drum” … “Boots of Lead” … they have a kind of military connotation.

    With that, I could see how this poem could be about the brainwashing of soldiers. Perhaps an anti-war poem.

  2. frumpo says:

    The deepening realizations about a loved-ones death.

  3. natalie says:

    i can’t really figure out what this poem is talking about. i kinda have a feeling that she is dead in this poem????

  4. imen says:

    this poem fills me with fright; whatever its theme is: madness, death, pain, it is pervaded by a gothic sense and is chilling to read. probably i identify with the speaker in this poem but it renders a psychic state so dramatically that it becomes chilling!

  5. isis says:

    I am going to teach this poem next week and reading it proves to be an endless experience of renewed pleasure, awe, and confusion (too much certainty kills individuality and freedom of interpretation) I myself write poetry and admire Dickinson’s boldness

  6. Anonymous says:

    This poem is awesome! I read it like 10 times until i finally got my own explanation out of it.

  7. robert says:

    I think that this poem is about a descent into madness and therefore do not agree with the final word being–nothing. From what I have learned about Emily Dickinson, I know that she was infatuated with the thought of losing consciousness of self. The “plank of reason” breaking is losing this self-consciousness and as a result descending into madness. I love the sounds of this poem how throughout it I can hear the treading and the beating and the lead boots, and at the last stanza there is silence.

  8. Andrea says:

    I don’t like transcendentalism or anti-transcendentalism and when Emily Dickinson is added it is so much worse. I read I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, and i understood it but i can not find any characteristics of anti-transcendentalism.

  9. Sicily says:

    I don’t understand this poem. What important sense in this poem is not present in this poem? What finally happens to the speaker at the end? Does she die, does she just pass out, does finally realize what is happening to her?

  10. Jordan says:

    After reading this poem for my AP Lit class, i couldnt stop thinking about it. One of the main things that puzzled me were to lead boots..

    However, after thinking some more about the poem, I would have to agree that it is speaking about several things. The brain washing was an interesting idea, but i dont think she meant it to that extreme of a position. It really warns about letting others destroy an image or hope that you have in your mind. The funeral was of a strong belief/thought she had that was ruined because of someone else attempting to force their opinion onto her.

    After this thought is ruined, she is completly confused and lost. The silence is representative of her closing her mind off to all others in the world, not allowing them to posion her mind. Instead, she opens up to something bigger, something better than a mere mortal.

    She becomes an ear to the heavens and looks for guidance from a heigher being. She shows her weakness by opening up and allowing some heavenly figure to speak the truth to her.

    But again, if anyone could explain the lead boots to me, i would greatly appreciate it.

  11. Laura says:

    I think that this poem is her dealing with something… whether it be a horrible past memory or something that is upsetting her, it’s tormenting her brain. The tolling bell hurts her mind, it shows her inability to comprehend and figure out the situation. Then the bell stops, she’s realized something, and finally at the end, she has come to terms with this thought or this memory, but doesn’t share it with us.. It hits her and she moves on.

  12. Kara says:

    When I first read this poem I about screamed, becuase all of the metaphors that Emily uses, until i analyzed it and realized how insightful she is in this poem. In the last stanza,
    And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
    And i dropped down, and down-
    And hit a World, at every plunge,
    And Finished knowing-then-

    I thought of it as the “Plank in Reason” is the last stronghold to resist its own dissolution, and then it “breaks”. So Emily seems to start to go unconcious, “And dropped down, and down-“, from all the pain and agony. “hit a World, at every plunge” might be talking about the different stages/degrees of repression. And then the last line, “And Finished knowing-then-” just says that she passed out.

  13. Zee says:

    I adore this poem. I think Emily Dickinson does such a wonderful job of taking something so simple and making it up to be grand. This poem is an excellent example. She uses her customary paradox in the beginning, and her clarifying metaphors, all to express her feelings on an epiphany. It’s brilliant really.

  14. Aymee says:

    First note: I enjoyed Hatty’s interpretation of Dickinson’s poem in regards to her professor.

    The first time I came across this specific poem was when I was living in Manhattan and stumbled across an old 1960’s copy of “Emily Dickinson” a Laurel Poetry series book, it was number thirteen. I was specifically enthralled by her use of metaphor on the senses to draw in the reader with the treading, and the creaking and the drumming and the tolling. It gave a very full sense of being empty in response to a person fantasy of their own death. It brings a sense of hurt from the reader for the pain she must have endured to bring about those pains. This one, is especially well done.

  15. Casey says:

    This poem, upon first glance, seems almost impossible to interpret. You are confronted immediately by phrases like, “Boots of Lead,” and “the Space – began to toll.” It is the tolling that really hits me upsides the head, I can almost hear it myself. She describes the heavens as turning into one, giant, tolling bell…and she, merely an ear, forced to listen. A clamor so loud, that I can only imagine it would feel something like a tumor rupturing in one’s head. For Emily describes herself, along with ‘Silence’, as some “strange Race.” Meaning, silence has become some foreign alien that no longer holds a place in the world; due, entirely I’m sure, to that massive bell clamoring away in the heavens.

    But when the “Plank of Reason” breaks. One can almost hear the snap, the crack of reason crumbling away. But then she drops down into what I can only imagine as an infinite darkness, hitting “a World at every plunge.” A World? This seems to be the most obscure symbol in this poem. Is she speaking of her life flashing before her as she plummets into the unknown, her own world crumbling?

    But the death finally overcomes her and she ‘finishes knowing.’ Which I like to think alludes to Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” Not knowing, that is how Dickinson would most likely summarize death. It is how most intellectuals would.

  16. micc says:

    i enjoyed the poem and have linked it with sylvia plath’s “Tulips” in an essay for my final yr as they are both about trying to escape the pressures of life and externalising their inner torment. however i would love to find out about her background family life. she was obviously quite a rich member of the bourgeouisie to be able to sit in what sounds like a tower as she use to let down baskets through some pulley system why she was a recluse. but if anyone has any knowledge of her background please let me know . i also found it interesting how we can look at dickinson and see how ppl haven’t changed…there are still today people as ignorant as our young emily (or emilie as she liked to be called) who lived through the civil war and not once has she even given mention to it, like critics said” she worte about the biggest event: herself.” i hope we can all learn from the young recluse because i for one do not want to be as blind and ignorant as she was to such huge events and cut myself off from social history when some claim i wasn’t even depressed i just had an obsession with death. this is what emilie did and i hope no one repeats such behaviour.

  17. jennifer says:

    i have to say i love this poem but i have known the last word to be “then” not “nothing”. i think this poem is there dealing with her own feelings, mind, and torment until she realises something “and finished knowing-then” but wont let us in on it. she also is trying to push away the people who are trying to help her but make her trying to find this realisation harder, maybe she hints a reason why she became a recluse

  18. Sherese says:

    I think this poem is about her describing what its like when were brainwashed. the mourners are the pple trying to change her. the funeral in her brain is the the part in her brain that is being destroyed from listing to others.”kept treading-treading on my thoughts”. the poem i had at school was a little different.

  19. KATE says:


  20. Hatty says:

    A tribute to Emily’s genius, a hint to my overbearing bitter teacher:
    I felt a funeral in my Brain
    And my teacher to and fro
    Kept treading- treading- on my thoughts
    Till his dull wit was breaking through.

    And when we all were silent
    His voice, like a drum
    kept treading- treading- and at last
    My mind gave up and went numb-

    And then he turned to a new poem
    It tore right through my soul,
    His slanderous Boots of lead, again,
    I wish- the bell would toll,

    And then a Plank of Boredom, broke,
    And i dropped down and down-
    I didnt think it could get much worse,
    And finished knowing- nothing-

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