The speaker says that “the Soul selects her own Society—” and then “shuts the Door,” refusing to admit anyone else—even if “an Emperor be kneeling / Upon her mat—.” Indeed, the soul often chooses no more than a single person from “an ample nation” and then closes “the Valves of her attention” to the rest of the world.
The meter of “The Soul selects her own Society” is much more irregular and halting than the typical Dickinson poem, although it still roughly fits her usual structure: iambic trimeter with the occasional line in tetrameter. It is also uncharacteristic in that its rhyme scheme—if we count half-rhymes such as “Gate” and “Mat”—is ABAB, rather than ABCB; the first and third lines rhyme, as well as the second and fourth. However, by using long dashes rhythmically to interrupt the flow of the meter and effect brief pauses, the poem’s form remains recognizably Dickinsonian, despite its atypical aspects.
Whereas “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” takes a playful tone to the idea of reclusiveness and privacy, the tone of “The Soul selects her own Society—” is quieter, grander, and more ominous. The idea that “The Soul selects her own Society” (that people choose a few companions who matter to them and exclude everyone else from their inner consciousness) conjures up images of a solemn ceremony with the ritual closing of the door, the chariots, the emperor, and the ponderous Valves of the Soul’s attention. Essentially, the middle stanza functions to emphasize the Soul’s stonily uncompromising attitude toward anyone trying to enter into her Society once the metaphorical door is shut—even chariots, even an emperor, cannot persuade her. The third stanza then illustrates the severity of the Soul’s exclusiveness—even from “an ample nation” of people, she easily settles on one single person to include, summarily and unhesitatingly locking out everyone else. The concluding stanza, with its emphasis on the “One” who is chosen, gives “The Soul selects her own Society—” the feel of a tragic love poem, although we need not reduce our understanding of the poem to see its theme as merely romantic. The poem is an excellent example of Dickinson’s tightly focused skills with metaphor and imagery; cycling through her regal list of door, divine Majority, chariots, emperor, mat, ample nation, and stony valves of attention, Dickinson continually surprises the reader with her vivid and unexpected series of images, each of which furthers the somber mood of the poem.
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