"I Felt A Funeral In My Brain" (#280)
Dickenson describes, in #280, what seems to be a funeral. Usually, however, one would think a funeral for a person who has died. There are described events of a normal funeral; mourners, the service, the lifting of an implied coffin; but no one died, no one is to be buried. This funeral that Dickenson describes, the funeral she is experiencing in her brain, is actually a funeral for the death of her mind.
Dickenson begins to describe this slow death of her mind in the first stanza when she says, "Mourners to and fro kept treading-treading till it seemed that sense was giving way." The mourners Dickenson describes seem to represent her thoughts and emotions, which are passing back and forth through her mind until "till it seemed that sense was giving way", that all cognitive thought was beginning to fail.
Dickinson continues to describe this slow, determined deterioration of her mind with the lines, which along with her mind, beat and deteriorate, "And when they all were seated, a service like a drum-kept beating-beating till I thought my mind was going numb.” The funeral ceremony has now begun, and the "beating-beating" emphasizes the continued destruction of her mind, by the trying thoughts.
Soon after the service is over and the pallbearers carry the coffin to the cemetery, Dickenson tries for a final attempt to control her sanity as she describes in the third stanza. " Then I heard them lift a box /And creak across my soul/With those same Boots of Lead, again,/Then space began to toll."
In this Dickenson implies that her mind is about to be buried, and as her mind is being buried, she hears those last thoughts of reasoning, and suddenly all thouhts are gone and the only one left is Dickenson, "and silence, some strange race here."
In the last stanza, as the coffin is being lowered to the ground, Dickinson describes the final result of the death of her mind as she explains, "And then a Plank in Reason broke,/And I dropped down, and down-" As Dickenson is being lowered in the ground the bottom of the coffin suddenly breaks, implying that this "Plank in Reason" is a level of understanding, thinking, knowing. Then Dickenson "hits a World, at every plunge" passing through different "worlds" or levels of sanity, where she goes from reasoning to "Finished knowing then" or unreasoning, not thinking, not knowing-insanity.