Thomas H. Johnson: On 341 ("After great pain, a formal feeling comes--")

. . . The authority of "After great pain, a formal feeling comes" derives from the technical skill with which the language is controlled. As she always does in her best poems, Emily Dickinson makes her first line lock all succeeding lines into position. . . . /97/ The heaviness of the pain is echoed by bore, wooden, quartz, stone, lead. The formal feeling is coldly ceremonious, mechanical, and stiff, leading through chill and stupor to a "letting go." The stately pentameter measure of the first stanza is used, in the second, only in the first line and the last, between which are hastened rhythms. The final two lines of the poem, which bring it to a close, reestablish the formality of the opening lines. Exact rhymes conclude each of the stanzas.

Emily Dickinson's impulse to let the outer form develop from the inner mood now begins to extend to new freedoms. Among her poems composed basically as quatrains, she does not hesitate to include a three-line stanza, as in "I rose because he sank," or a five-line stanza, as in "Glee, the great storm is over." On some occasions, to break the regularity in yet another way or to gain a new kind of emphasis, she splits a line from its stanza, allowing it to stand apart, as in "Beauty—be not caused—lt Is," and "There's been a Death, in the Opposite House." Sometimes poems beginning with an iambic beat shift in succeeding stanzas to a trochaic, to hasten the tempo, as in "In falling timbers buried." It is the year too when she used her dashes lavishly. /98/

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Criticism Overview
Title Thomas H. Johnson: On 341 ("After great pain, a formal feeling comes--") Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Thomas H. Johnson Criticism Target Emily Dickinson
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 13 Sep 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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