Summary of “PAIN has an element of blank”
About the poet: Emily Dickinson is known for her eccentric ways of portraying emotions through her poetry. Emily lived in a secluded room and preferred to stay away from people. She is said to have been melancholic and had issues with getting along with people. She lived in a room overlooking the graveyard which might have added to her behavior and mood. This poem, in particular, is based on the emotion of pain and its existence.
PAIN has an element of blank;
It cannot recollect
When it began, or if there were
A day when it was not.
In plain context, pain has been so severe and has had such a long-lasting impression that while recollecting the memories of the past, only the pain was remembered. Emily wants the reader to know that Pain is an individual identity which is not influenced rather we are engulfed by it. Pain by itself cannot recollect rather we recollect the time. When we fall sick we cannot think of the days when we were not sick and rather crave for the normalcy of life again. This stanza explains the troubled thoughts one has while enduring and going through pain as an emotion and physically as well. Here, pain is shown as a timeless entity which dominates her in all sense.
It has no future but itself,
Its infinite realms contain
Its past, enlightened to perceive
New periods of pain
The effect of pain is so much so that, pain becomes the entire existence itself, meaning that the present is also seeing only pain and the future cannot be thought of without the relentless pain. Life is reduced to just pain in this moment. Pain as entity takes over every aspect of the narrator’s life that there is no difference in the past, present or future. It surpasses and exists in all these realms of time. There is no end to pain and the past exists in the future in order to understand the new times of pain.
The poem is presented in the from the point of view of ‘pain’. The two aspects that Emily has played around with is time and intensity. The timelessness of pain is what we can see across the 8 lines of this poem and in Emily’s life. It brings out a very personal aspect of Emily’s life and reflects upon her condition and feelings throughout her life. There is no sense of identity apart from the pain that is engulfing her. This leads to a sense of depersonalization where there is no sense of self but only the pain that exists.
If Emily Dickinson’s motive was to make the reader understand the hopelessness and the despair due to pain. She has achieved it in great lengths with such a short/small poem, which might also be projecting Emily’s own experiences with pain and suffering which has been seen in her other poems.
Pain is seen as a living entity which cannot think for itself but is seen to go through the time like humans or as a companion. Pain is giving the state of a living thing in order to exemplify the intensity of pain that the poet must have gone through. There is a sense of the poet having endured pain to such an extent that she is able to understand how pain flows through time and give it a life in order to express her condition.