This is the Hour of Lead –

from Emily Dickinson – After great pain a formal feeling comes (J341, F372) on Rap Genius


Since lead is a highly stable element, with a half life of 1017 years, this phrase could mean that a tragedy that takes an hour (or second) to occur can last for a seemingly infinite time in the mind of the observer. “Great pain” is timeless—both to all people throughout history, and in the memory of each individual who has ever experienced it.

There is also the obvious interpretation that lead is dark and heavy, and that an hour of remembering is obviously very painful and heavy in the heart of the narrator.

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Lead also is a metal which causes poisoning—people were aware of its toxicity as early as two thousand years ago. (And we’re still putting it in paint? Right…)

During the Civil War, bullets were also made of lead. This is an hour that can kill you.

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