And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
This phrase is meant to mention the timelessness of suffering. All human beings have suffered throughout history, be it symbolically as Christ did (mentioned in the previous line) or physically and emotionally, as experienced by every person who has lived throughout history. Thus, pain as a human experience is beautifully timeless yet constraining. It perpetually shackles us because it is inextricably linked with the human condition.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “After great pain a formal feeling comes (J341, F372)” by Emily Dickinson and leave a comment on the lyrics box