Recluse

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EL 266

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

Dickinson, XIII

I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
Dickinson, XVII


Yeah, she was most definitely a recluse.  I think that this sticks out to me the most in Dickinson's poetry because that is her trademark characteristic as a poet. Poe is known for his horror and suspense, while Dickinson wrote hundreds of poems and kept herself locked away from the world.

But there is more to this.  Both of these poems have large hints of spirituality in them. In the first she mentions that the soul has shut itself away from the vast majority, yet an emperor stops by her door, brought there by a chariot. Using Foster's theories, I'm bound to believe that this emperor is Christ, stopping by at the door to Emily's heart. Typically when Emily Dickenson has referred to a chariot, she is talking about something spiritual. In "Because I Could not Stop for Death" she talks about the chariot taking the person in the poem away from the earth.  Also, because the narrator in the story has kept herself from the "majority" she remains pure, and Christ has come to reside there, kneeling at the mat of her door.

Now in the second poem, Emily is not only testifying to the fact that she has never been to the ocean, but she is also saying that she has faith. Her faith is in the unseen, and just as she knows that there is an ocean, she also believes that there is a Heaven.  I thought this one was much easier to grasp, mainly because she comes out and says it in the second stanza: "Yet I am certain of the spot, as if the chart were given."

2 Comments

Jennifer Prex said:

I understood the second poem you mentioned, but I'll admit that I did not understand the first until looking at it again after reading what you wrote. Thank you for helping me to understand it better! Poetry has never been a strong suit of mine. Anyways, looking back at it, I can definitely see the spirituality in it. The lines "Choose one; / Then close the valves of her attention / Like stone" (10-12) seem to show that she chose one faith and stuck to it, I guess.

Katie Lantz said:

Thank you! I actually didn't get that line until you had said something about it.

I guess with so many religions around at her time, Emily may have felt pressured into sticking with just one.

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