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Syntax in After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes

Syntax Examples in After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes:

Text of the Poem

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"First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—..."   (Text of the Poem)

The dashes slow the reader down, so that each word or phrase receives maximum emphasis. The slow-down effect is deliberate and capitalizes on the “Hour of Lead” and the loss of mental faculties. The initial word, “First,” is neutral while the second word, “Chill,” brings in the more negative connotations of a body slowing down and losing function. This “Freezing” process is compounded by the next two words, “then Stupor,” which extends the process from the physical to the mental, or a shift from the body to the feelings. The mind becomes passive and lacks control. However, at the end, the mind performs an active function: it lets go, suggesting a final loss of consciousness, a surrender to forces greater than the self.

"This..."   (Text of the Poem)

The demonstrative pronoun “this” serves to refer to the actions that have occurred in the preceding context. The speaker uses “this” to say that all of the preceding information in the first two stanzas have built on one another and led to the current moment, which she describes as “the Hour of Lead.”

"Regardless..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adverb “Regardless” describes the past participle “grown” in this line. When “regardless” is used this way, it means that the word it modifies is not worthy of notice or regard. If we read the past participle “grown” as a modifier for the following noun (“Quartz contentment), then this line suggests that the crystalline, inflexible contentment has developed within the speaker without their notice or care.

"A Wooden way..."   (Text of the Poem)

If we read this phrase as the object of the phrasal verb “go round,” then the meaning differs slightly. In that case, “wooden” is modifying “way.” The speaker has described her movement as mechanical, and now she discusses the different paths available for her feet to move on. “Wooden,” then, suggests a path that was once lively, but now dull, lifeless, and oblivious to sensation.

"A Wooden way..."   (Text of the Poem)

This line most likely functions as an adverbial phrase, describing how the feet move. With this reading, “wooden” applies to the feet, which tells us that the movement of the feet lacks liveliness, interest, and is performed stiffly and without spirit.

"questions..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice how Dickinson crafts the subject-verb relationship in this opening stanza (“feeling comes”; “Nerves sit”; “Heart questions”). This active voice conveys an accumulating rhetorical emphasis as the pain progresses through the parts of the body capable of experiencing it.

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