The Soul Selects Her Own Society

The Soul Selects Her Own Society

We’ve been taking a closer look at Emily Dickinson’s poetry this term with the girls, and this Christmas I was serendipitously gifted an unabridged collection of her poems. Yes. I squealed.

Poetry is not something I used to appreciate, but little by little I take in what I can, for the sake of tuning the listeners of my home to beautiful things. Even if some days we are all left with a simple “not sure what any of that meant.” More often than not, certain ideas are left drifting quietly in our minds for days on end and someone finally breaks the silence to reopen the conversation.

Today I gift your hearts with Dickinson’s “The Soul Selects Her Own Society.” If you’re new to poetry like us, here is a simple practice:

  1. Read it in it’s entirety.
  2. Sit and think about what it could generally be talking about.
  3. Read again one section at a time with that perceived perspective, underlining (or in your case, writing down) words or phrases that stand out.
  4. When you’ve reached the end, take your nuggets of mental pictures and phrases and/or corrected perceptions and read it all again.
  5. Go about your day and let these thoughts continue their deep work in your mind, content with whatever you gathered on your own. Worthy ideas are always alive ones that will surely bloom again.

Go ahead, give it a first read:


"The soul selects her own society
          Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I've known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone."

-Emily Dickinson

Now let’s take it bit by bit. I will add my own brief inner dialogue, but you might take an entirely different route with your thoughts. That’s the beauty I have found with good ideas embedded in words. They’re like seeds cast in the wind in a million directions.

The soul selects her own society

Then shuts the door;

On her divine majority

Obtrude no more.

“The Soul Selects Her Own Society” – E. Dickinson

When I read this first line I had just decided to take a bit of a hibernation from social media. The timing felt impeccable to read “The soul selects her own society, then shuts the door”. My thoughts continued as follows:

How often do I build rhythms to protect my heart enough to actually choose that which influences it?

If obtrude means to “impose on others with undue insistence or invitation” what have I let seep in uninvited? Am I the master of my devices or am I the slave?

Am I brave enough to choose a few and then shut the door with confidence? Even if only for a little while? What do I fear if not?

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing

At her low gate;

Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling

Upon her mat.

“The Soul Selects Her Own Society” – E. Dickinson

Once I choose that which will have impressions on my heart, do I stand strong and unmoved? No matter how interesting the “chariot” or how influential the “emperor”?

Will I remain steadfast trusting that every opportunity to stand unmoved I am actually strengthening my will toward the chosen best and beautiful?

I’ve known her from an ample nation Choose one;

Then close the valves of her attention

Like stone.

“The Soul Selects Her Own Society” – E. Dickinson

Is there a plentiful, more than enough and ample nation we could fix our gaze on? Do we trust that once we choose the One aim all other “low hanging fruits” will not be as seductive?

In the satisfying portion of that choice, will we find strength to close all other valves of our attention?

What does this fixed attention look like on a large scale? How does that fixed trajectory to my life affect proper attention in the smaller things? The eye contact with a child. The lingering over a sunset. The diligence in the mundane.

Now let’s read it all over again with fresher eyes:


"The soul selects her own society
          Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I've known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone."

-Emily Dickinson

I would love to hear how this poem spoke to you and what lines stood out. Or if it even reminds you of another collection of words. Thats my absolute favorite!

2 responses to “The Soul Selects Her Own Society”

    • Simply seeing your comment and that the word “ample” stuck out to you has me on another thought process altogether! Love how vital ideas work this way. For truly, if ample means “more than enough,” who is that all sufficient, ample One we’re choosing?

      Like

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