The Soul Selects Her Own Society is a poem written by Emily Dickinson. It is a poem about choosing one’s companions. It also sheds light on an introverted personality, content with few, but intimate friends. This poem has two slightly different texts which differ in the 3rd and 4th lines. We have considered the text with the 3rd and 4th lines as ‘On her divine majority/Obtrude no more’
The poem begins with the profound line ‘The soul selects her own society’. This line implies that at the end of the day it is a person’s soul that will decide who it wants to spend time with. The soul carries the deeper nature and feelings of a person. The individual personality is nothing but a reflection of one’s soul and hence it is quite natural that the soul will choose the individual’s company.
From the next few lines, it becomes clear that the poet is specifically talking about her own soul here. There is a distinct hint of introversion and possible loneliness within the lines. Once her soul has chosen its company, it shuts its doors to the rest of the world. It is content with its chosen few.
The next two lines are a little interesting and may be interpreted in different ways. One possible interpretation is that she calls her soul, the ‘divine majority’, hence once the soul has made a decision, it is to be treated as the will of the majority and followed. She implores others not to obtrude upon the world she and her companion inhabits. She is essentially requesting the world at large to respect the decision taken by her soul.
She intends to stand by what she says. It does not matter even if an Emperor seeks her company. She will only follow the choice of her soul. So when a chariot pauses at her gate, she is unmoved. ‘Low gate’ could refer to the fact that she is a commoner, hence her social status would be lower than that of an Emperor.
The Emperor is kneeling upon her mat. But it elicits no reaction from her, for she seeks only the company that her soul selects.
The poet says that she has known her soul to even select only one particular person out of a large group. The phrase ‘ample nation’ may be a metaphorical reference to any large group of people. Once her soul has made the choice, her attention will be closed for everyone else in that group. The poet uses the phrase ‘valves of her attention’. Valves are used to regulate the flow of a fluid. The can be regulated to completely cease the flow if required. Similarly, once her soul has chosen a companion from a group of people, she would completely cease paying any attention to others.
The poet says that the valves of her attention would close like stone. The word ‘stone’ indicates a finality and hint at the fact that closing her attention would also be painful to the poet.
This poem hints at the poet’s own selective nature while developing friendships. This is in line with Emily Dickinson in real life. She was known for her reluctance to greet guests and in her later life hardly ever left her bedroom. The poet’s solitude is quite apparent in the poem.