Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The soul selects her own society

Here is another poem (apart from the "This is my letter to the world" one) by Emily Dickinson which in some ways explains how she thinks about living in near solitude, as she seemingly did for the last half of her life.

The poem is from around 1862, one of her most productive and poetically successful years, and reads as follows:

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 —

I find this description of the soul's will to decide for herself with whom she intermingles quite accurate. First of all, the word soul is a slightly problematic concept, given the word's many and varying meanings throughout history. But I take it to be something deeply personal to you, yet universal, like it is your specific part of the large Being we all partake in and are composits of.

So your soul, according to Dickinson, has an inherent ability to choose what is exactly right for you, an ability to select the company or society best suited for you to evolve and expand into your expression of the capitalized Being we indeed take part in.

This I believe in as well, or rather, I know it is so. But I also know that we more often than not let other interests or confusions or mental noise or beliefs about how we should or shouldn't be, disturb our own frequency (you know, like the radios) and interfere with the best way for our souls to pick up signals. If staying by herself is what Dickinson thought would protect her soul's perceptability, that most certainly is her own choice.

Dickinson's isolation seems an actual choice which she made, actively and knowingly. It might be easy to think that she made this choice once and for all, but really what it means is that she made this choice over and over again, every minute of every day. So this quiet and solitary existence seems to have been the better way for her to live and produce her poetry - just herself and her soul. And it certainly looks a most fertile relationship, in poetic terms.

I wouldn't mind having been in the same room as her when she composed some of those remarkable poems, though - and I guess her poems are better company than many people anyway. They certainly last longer.

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