Friday, May 29, 2020

Forms in Dickinson's "After great pain"

With its iambic pentameter and AABB rhymes, the first stanza of Emily Dickinson's "After great pain, a formal feeling comes" reads like heroic couplets. Its discursiveness could even fit into an imaginary Alexander Pope poem, "Essay on Pain". The second stanza then shifts to five iambic lines of 4, 2, 3, 2, and 4 feet, with internal rather than end rhymes. But if the stanza had followed them as AABB, it would have had iambic lines of 4, 3, 4, and 4 feet, with the unexpected four feet in the last line disrupting the common meter. The poem's "formal feeling", then, is a feeling for forms being explored for "great pain". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 May)

Earlier posts on this poem: first and second.

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