Emily Dickinson: Various Poems By: Jamie McNair

Emily Dickinson

  • Emily was born December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her family had deep roots in New England.
  • Middle child
  • She was a poet and writer.
  • Emily’s grandfather was the founder of Amherst College; her father worked at the college and was a legislator for the state
  • Emily Dickinson attended Amherst College (originally know as Amherst Academy) for seven years.
  • She also attended Mount Holyoke Female seminary for a year; the supposed reason that she left was because of her weak emotional state.
  • She never joined a church.
  • Her best friend Susan Gilbert married Emily’s brother, William, in 1856.
  • Neither Emily nor her sister married; they lived together and took care of their ailing mother.
  • Emily suffered from several mental disorders such as agoraphobia, anxiety, and depression. She also suffered ailments to her eyes.
  • Emily also studied botany.
  • Dickinson died at the age of 55, on May 15, 1886 from kidney disease. She died in Amherst.
  • A huge collection of her works (fascicles) were discovered by her sister, Lavina, and published as The Poems of Emily Dickinson.

214, I taste a liquor never brewed (p. 1189)

In this text, Emily describes going out to a tavern to get drunk on a summer day. In the first stanza of this poem she is drinking a strange liquor that is not brewed but is superior to Rhine wine. In the second stanza she becomes drunk by consuming the summer air and dew. In the third stanza she claims to have a higher tolerance for drinking than most summer drinkers. The last thing she states is that she will drink until seraphs, which are angels of the highest order, come to see her.

303, The soul selects its own society (p. 1192)

In this text, Emily describes how the soul only “selects one society”, and then “shuts the door” on the rest. Even if “an Emperor be kneeling” the soul will not accept. Only one “from an ample nation” will “close the valves of her attention”. The alludes to the idea that people only choose one true companion throughout life (best friend, lover, family member, etc.). This poem really discusses that idea of soul mates heavily.

324, Some keep the Sabbath going to Church (p. 1192)

In this text, Emily writes about not needing to go to church to fulfill a relationship with God. In the first stanza she writes about how some people need to be apart of a community, but she believes that one can find faith in solitude as well. In the second stanza she writes about how “some keep the Sabbath in Surplice” which is a gown that is worn in religious choirs, but she only wears her wings; this is an extremely powerful point. In the last stanza Emily writes about how sermons are not long, and that what she was able to find in the comfort of her home was her heaven.

Growth of the Denominations

Around the time of Emily Dickinson’s life was the Second Great Awakening (1790). Around the 1820’s the denominations took off. The religions that took off during this time were primarily Baptists and Methodists, but also Catholic, Episcopal, Congressional, and Lutheran. This Great Second Awakening, is what probably motivated the majority of her themes in poetry.

Discussion Questions

1. In 214, I taste a liquor never brewed, Emily talks about drinking until seraphs come to see her. How does this present her spirituality to the reader?

2. In 303, The soul selects its own society, the idea of one having a designated soul mate is evident. It may have been that Emily’s sister, Lavinia, was her soul mate, because they lived together and aided to their ailing mother together. It seems that Emily Dickinson believes that fate will help in the realization of the one, true soul mate. How does her quarrelsome relationship with a higher power have an effect on the ideas behind this poem?

3. In 324, Some keep the Sabbath going to Church, Emily writes, “Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice—I just wear my Wings—“; This quotation is very strongly persuasive, do you think that Emily Dickinson is trying to just justify her not going to church or do you think she may be persuading her audience to live a more spiritual life in solitude?

Works Cited

"Emily Dickinson." Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, 08 Apr. 2017. Web. 26

Apr. 2017.

"I taste a liquor never brewed- ▾." Enotes.com. Enotes.com, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

"‘Some Keep the Sabbath Going in Church…’ (236) by Emily Dickinson (Poetry

Analysis)." MixedUpSayDee. N.p., 03 Jan. 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

The soul selects her own society. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.


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