'The Soul unto itself' by Emily Dickinson

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The Soul unto itself
Is an imperial friend—
Or the most agonizing Spy—
An Enemy—could send—

Secure against its own—
No treason it can fear—
Itself—its Sovereign—of itself
The Soul should stand in Awe—

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Soul Unto Itself by Emily Dickinson: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Have you ever felt lost in the world, searching for a place to belong? Or have you ever pondered the meaning of life and the purpose of your existence? If so, then you can relate to Emily Dickinson's poem, "The Soul Unto Itself." This masterpiece of literature is a journey of self-discovery, an exploration of the human psyche, and a celebration of individuality.

The Soul's Journey

The poem begins with the assertion that the soul is "the imperial friend" of itself. The soul is its own ruler and companion, and it does not need external validation or support. It is a self-sufficient entity that can survive on its own, even in the face of adversity. The soul is like a ship that sails the sea of life, guided by its own compass and driven by its own will.

But the journey of the soul is not an easy one. The poem acknowledges that the soul may encounter storms and tempests, and it may be buffeted by the winds of fate. However, these trials and tribulations only serve to strengthen the soul's resolve and deepen its understanding of itself. The soul is like a phoenix that rises from the ashes of its own destruction, reborn and renewed with each challenge it faces.

The Soul's Relationship with God

The poem also explores the relationship between the soul and God. Dickinson was known for her unconventional views on religion, and "The Soul Unto Itself" reflects her belief in a personal, intimate connection with the divine. The soul is not subservient to God, but rather a partner in a divine dance. The soul is like a lover who delights in the presence of its beloved, and it finds joy in the knowledge that it is loved in return.

The soul's relationship with God is not based on fear or obedience, but on love and communion. The soul is not interested in the trappings of religion, such as rituals or dogma. Instead, it seeks direct experience with the divine, unmediated by human institutions or intermediaries. The soul is like a mystic who seeks to merge with the divine, to lose itself in the ocean of God's love.

The Soul's Individuality

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the poem is its celebration of individuality. Dickinson was a champion of the unique and the unconventional, and "The Soul Unto Itself" reflects her belief in the importance of being true to oneself. The soul is not bound by convention or tradition, but is free to express itself in its own unique way. The soul is like an artist who creates a masterpiece that is entirely its own, without regard for the opinions of others.

The poem asserts that the soul is "not hers to praise or blame," meaning that the soul is not subject to the judgments of others. The soul is not concerned with what others think of it, but only with being true to itself. The soul is like a rebel who defies authority and charts its own course, blazing a trail for others to follow.

The Soul's Immortality

Finally, the poem explores the concept of immortality. Dickinson was fascinated by the idea of life after death, and "The Soul Unto Itself" reflects her belief in the soul's eternal nature. The soul is not subject to death or decay, but is instead a timeless entity that transcends the physical world. The soul is like a star that shines on, even after it has burned out and died.

The poem asserts that the soul is "mortal elsewhere," meaning that it is only mortal in the physical world. In the spiritual realm, the soul is immortal and eternal. The soul is like a bird that flies free from the constraints of the body, soaring into the vast expanse of the heavens.


In conclusion, "The Soul Unto Itself" is a masterpiece of literature that explores the journey of the soul, the soul's relationship with God, the soul's individuality, and the soul's immortality. The poem is a celebration of the human spirit, a testament to the power of self-discovery, and a reminder that we are all unique, precious, and eternal beings. So let us embrace our individuality, let us seek communion with the divine, and let us remember that our souls are our greatest treasures.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Soul unto itself by Emily Dickinson is a classic poem that explores the concept of self-reliance and the power of the individual soul. In this 24-line poem, Dickinson uses vivid imagery and metaphors to convey her message of the importance of self-discovery and self-reliance.

The poem begins with the line, "The Soul unto itself / Is an imperial friend." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as Dickinson establishes the soul as a powerful and independent force. The use of the word "imperial" suggests that the soul is regal and majestic, and that it possesses a certain authority over the individual.

Dickinson goes on to describe the soul as "a warrior staunch and strong," further emphasizing its strength and resilience. The use of the word "warrior" suggests that the soul is capable of fighting for itself and standing up against external forces that may try to diminish its power.

The second stanza of the poem begins with the line, "The Soul unto itself / Is an augmented eye." Here, Dickinson uses a metaphor to describe the soul as an "augmented eye," suggesting that it has the ability to see beyond what is visible to the physical eye. This line speaks to the idea that the soul possesses a deeper understanding of the world and of oneself.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as Dickinson writes, "The Soul unto itself / Is an imperial friend – / Or the most agonizing spy / An enemy could send." Here, Dickinson contrasts the idea of the soul as a friend with the idea of the soul as an enemy. This suggests that the soul has the power to both comfort and challenge the individual, depending on how it is approached.

The final stanza of the poem brings the message full circle, as Dickinson writes, "All else is found – / Illusion, the most sweet – / Mirage is Truth's mirage." Here, Dickinson suggests that everything else in the world is an illusion, and that the only true reality is the reality of the soul. This line speaks to the idea that self-discovery and self-reliance are the keys to unlocking true happiness and fulfillment in life.

Overall, The Soul unto itself is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that speaks to the importance of self-discovery and self-reliance. Through her use of vivid imagery and metaphors, Dickinson conveys the message that the soul is a powerful and independent force that has the ability to guide and challenge the individual. This poem is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today, and serves as a reminder of the importance of staying true to oneself and embracing the power of the individual soul.

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