The Poets

March 24, 2010

Emily's Poem- XIII


The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Of the Poem:

In line 1 Dickinson uses alliteration as a stylistic device, and does so with wonderful efficiency- notice how the ‘c’ of Society takes on an alliterative quality akin to the smooth sounds produced by the other ’s’ words in the same line (just say it aloud and see: The Soul selects her own Society).

Taken as a whole it seems there’s little evidence the poet intended a specific meter, but there are some similarities between the first two stanzas:

- the first lines of each contain ten syllables
- the second and fourth four
- the third line differs only by an extra syllable

The rhyme scheme, which essentially consists of oblique rhymes, is more tangible: a.b.a.b. with each stanza- provided we postulate a rhythmic relation between Gate and its half rhyme Mat of the second stanza.

Dickinson’s poetic style- from her dashes to her highly creative use of oblique rhyme schemes- has shown her to be one of the most ingenious and original writers I’ve come to know.

She employs some of the most awkward imagery I’ve seen in poetry- but in a most fantastic way, and almost never seems to exhibit academic conformity (which I admire).

The fact that she produced nearly 1800 poems before her death without a single soul knowing about them is clear evidence to me that she loved poetry not for the sake of accolade, but for poetry itself.

Like Theodore Roethke , Emily Dickinson’s poetic authenticity is undeniable. I appreciate her works dearly.


Note: Below in the comments area is one of many perspectives I've flirted with concerning this poem. Although I’m still developing my take on this poem, I thought I’d post some of my current thoughts there. I’d love to know what you think of it.


John W. May said...


I envision in the poem the mystic’s path to Divine Union, or the cognitive ascension Plato’s philosopher makes into the world of Ideals.

The poem is essentially about choice when it becomes resolute to the point of exclusion, but the cryptic and many-layered aspect of the poem leaves open many possible scenarios for this type of choice to take place. Below is one of the few subjective interpretations I derived from this Dickinson poem.

Is it possible that the Soul’s Society, being spiritual as she herself is, is deliberately contrasted with a worldly Majority? Is it possible that Chariots represent the temptation to wealth or warfare, or the Emperor to power and the love of the world? This may seem far reaching, but the analogy still applies, for we see that the Soul shuts the divine Majority out and, at the same time, being unmoved, keeps its Gates low in relation to the temptations of the Chariots and Emperor- the two of which seem desperate for entry.

That the poet specifically selected the image of the soul over that of the flesh tells me that the ’selection’ that line 1 refers to is internal in nature, which would marginalize that which is merely corporeal, external.
When this or that given soul touches or tastes the transcendental (its heaven, its own society) the mundane aspects of existence become exposed, and to the degree that this selfsame soul reaches a certain threshold that world seems Present no more.

Notice how lines 1 and 3 of the second stanza stress the resolve: Unmoved, Unmoved! As if the soul screamed out: Let what will call me back, still will I not return! The valves of my attention are closed, for I am with my own.

Annie said...

Yes! Another Emily Dickinson post - her word choice, rhyme scheme, format, and expressions are all brilliant - sheer brilliance. I cannot help but applaud earnestly from an amateur poet's soul.
This is simply a feast for any appreciator of poetry.

Obiterspeak said...
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