Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar

  • Gratefully adapted from various web sources

Emily Dickinson

Selected Poetry


Emily Dickinson (1830-86)
(daguerrotype taken app. 1846)

Questions: 1. Dickinson's poetry may appear to operate in some timeless realm, but how may its styles or content reflect its time-period of late Romanticism, bordering on early Realism?

More briefly, what's Romantic about the poem? What's Realistic?

1a. The gothic is usually associated with fiction, but what about this poem may evoke the gothic? (gothic = sub-category or sub-genre of Romanticism)

2. What characteristics of Dickinson's style? Or, how can you tell this is a poem by Emily Dickinson?

3. Compare this poem's form as "free verse" or "formal verse" with poems by Poe and Whitman (and other poems by Dickinson). (Comparative Study of Poe, Whitman, Dickinson)







[1.1]    I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
[1.2]    And mourners to and fro
[1.3]    Kept treading treading till it seemed
[1.4]    That Sense was breaking through

[2.1]    And when they all were seated,
[2.2]    A Service, like a Drum
[2.3]    Kept beating beating till I thought
[2.4]    My mind was going numb

[3.1]    And then I heard them lift a Box
[3.2]    And creak across my soul
[3.3]    With those same Boots of Lead, again,
[3.4]    Then Space began to toll,

[4.1]    As all the Heavens were a Bell,
[4.2]    And Being, but an Ear,
[4.3]    And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
[4.4]    Wrecked, solitary, here

[5.1]    And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
[5.2]    And I dropped down, and down
[5.3]    And hit a World, at every plunge,
[5.4]    And Finished knowing  then