The mystery of the soul is probably one of the questions that have plagued mankind the most. People believe in many gods, spirits, and life after death, therefore the beliefs about the soul also differ. Even though until this day, nobody knows exactly what a soul is, poets had been writing about it forever.
In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at the soul through the lens of poetry with some of the best poems for the soul.
And memory will not forego.
What but a soul could have the wit
To build me up for sin so fit?
So architects do square and hew
Green trees that in the forest grew.
A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body is a dialogue between two speakers, the “soul” and the “body.” The soul laments its imprisonment within the body, which is described as a “dungeon” with “bolts of bones” that fetter the soul in place. The soul is described as being “enslav’d” and “hung up” in chains, and is tormented by its own senses and emotions. The body, on the other hand, speaks of its own captivity within the soul, which it describes as a “tyrannic” force that impales and tortures the body. The body complains of being unable to escape the soul’s afflictions and pains, and describes the soul as the source of its various “maladies.”
The poem explores the complex relationship between the body and the soul, and suggests that both are trapped and suffer in their own ways. Andrew Marvell also touches on themes of suffering, confinement, and the interdependence of the body and the soul.
Till snows of mercy cover
The dream that shall come true,
When time makes all things wondrous,
And life makes all things new.
Weather of the Soul reflects on the journey of life and the different experiences and emotions that shape it. Bliss Carman describes life as a “world of being” that ranges from “pole to pole,” encompassing a range of seasons and weathers. These seasons and weathers represent the various states of the spirit and the soul, including joy, rapture, despair, and the “tranquil autumns” of rest and renewal.
The poem suggests that life is a dynamic and ever-changing process, with forces of aspiration and impulse constantly blowing in from “undiscovered regions,” and with unexpected storms and clouds of fault arising along the way. It also speaks of the transformative power of mercy, forgiveness, and absolution, which can bring healing and new life after times of sorrow and regret. Overall, Weather of the Soul is a reflection on the complex and varied nature of life, and the ways in which we navigate and grow through its many seasons and challenges.
Now, and I muse for why and never find the reason,
I pace the earth, and drink the air, and feel the sun.
Be still, be still, my soul; it is but for a season:
Let us endure an hour and see injustice done.
Be Still, My Soul, Be Still speaks of the struggles and difficulties of life, and encourages the reader to find peace and acceptance in the face of suffering. The speaker asks the soul to be “still” and to remember the times when it had “rest,” suggesting that life is not always easy or peaceful. Alfred Edward Housman reflects on the injustices and unkindness of the world, and wonders at the reasons for the soul’s current suffering.
Despite the challenges, the speaker reminds the soul that this suffering is only temporary, and encourages it to endure and to “see injustice done” with patience and acceptance. The poem speaks to the idea that life is full of hardships and difficult moments, but that it is important to find ways to cope and to find peace in the midst of these challenges.
Heav’n opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?
This poem is an expression of the speaker’s desire to leave their mortal body and ascend to heaven. Alexander Pope reflects on the idea of death and the afterlife, asking to be free from the struggles and limitations of their mortal body and to experience the beauty and peace of heaven. The poem also suggests the idea of a victory over death and the sting of death being overcome by the joy of eternal life in heaven. The use of imagery and metaphor throughout the poem further emphasizes the speaker’s desire for transcendence and the idea of death being a liberation rather than an end.
The Dying Christian to His Soul explores the theme of death and the afterlife, with a focus on the Christian belief in the soul’s immortality. The speaker expresses a desire to leave their mortal body and enter the next life, where they imagine a vision of Heaven and feel excited and hopeful to join the angels.
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.
The speaker in A Dialogue Of Self And Soul by William Butler Yeats appears to be engaging in self-reflection and introspection, using the metaphor of “My Soul” and “My Self” as the two facets of their being. The poem takes the form of a dialogue between these two parts, with “My Soul” representing the spiritual or inner self, and “My Self” representing the physical or outer self.
The speaker is exploring their own mind, reflecting on their past and present, and considering the meaning and purpose of their existence. He also expresses a kind of acceptance towards the events that have occurred in his life and the idea of forgiveness and contentment towards one’s self. The poem also has themes of repentance, forgiveness, and endurance. The speaker is willing to live life again, even with all its struggles, because of the joy and beauty that can be found in it, if one can detach from the remorse.
My soul is dark – Oh! quickly string
The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
Its melting murmurs o’er mine ear.
My Soul is Dark is a melancholic and emotional plea for the power of music to heal the speaker’s troubled soul. The speaker’s soul is described as dark and heavy, burdened by sorrow and pain. The speaker urges the minstrel or musician to play a wild and deep melody, as only the sound of music can soothe the speaker’s heart and bring relief to their suffering. The use of imagery such as “melting murmur” and “heavy heart” evokes a sense of emotional turmoil, while the reference to a harp and the minstrel’s fingers flinging melody highlights the power of music to heal and bring joy.
George Gordon Byron highlights the idea that music can have a therapeutic effect, soothing and releasing pent-up emotions. The speaker’s heart has been nurtured by sorrow and pain, and now it’s on the verge of breaking, but the hope is that the music will be able to save it and bring it to a state of peace.
Tenderly! be not impatient!
(Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh!
Strong is your hold, O love!)
The Imprisoned Soul illustrates that the speaker is aware of the challenges of releasing the hold of the flesh and the love, the stronghold that mortal flesh and love hold on a person. The speaker is impatient for release, but at the same time acknowledges the difficulty in letting go and the need for a tender and gentle approach.
In conclusion, the poem describes the desire of the speaker to be letting go of the physical constraints of the body and to experience a peaceful, spiritual release. Walt Whitman evokes a sense of longing and a yearning for something beyond the physical world, while also emphasizing the importance of a gentle and peaceful release.
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
No Coward Soul Is Mine expresses their faith anchored in the steadfast rock of immortality and that God’s love is wide-embracing and eternal. Emily Brontë asserts that even if the earth, moon, suns, and universe were to cease to exist, God’s being and existence would still remain. The speaker concludes that there is no room for death because God is the source of life and being, and therefore nothing can destroy God.
Overall, the poem conveys a message of strength and confidence in the face of adversity and uncertainty, and we have to be the captain of our own ship. The speaker’s faith in God and their belief in the immortality of the soul gives them the strength to face and overcome fear. The poem also promotes a belief in the all-pervading nature of God and emphasizes that God is the source of life and existence.
The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —
The speaker in the poem is describing the nature of the soul and how it selects the company it wants to keep, and those who are not chosen are no longer present. The Soul selects her own Society (303) then speaks of the soul’s ability to choose one individual from a vast nation, and then close the valves of its attention to all else, like a stone. This emphasizes the soul’s power of choice and discrimination.
Generally, Emily Dickinson highlights the idea that the soul has the ability to choose its own company and that its choices are not influenced by external factors. It portrays the soul as being independent, self-reliant and selective. The idea of the soul choosing one individual from a vast nation suggests a deep connection between the souls, and how the soul is discerning and not swayed by external forces.
Thy voice and hand shake still,—long known to thee
By flying hair and fluttering hem,—the beat
Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
How passionately and irretrievably,
In what fond flight, how many ways and days!
Dante Gabriel Rossetti describes a vision of “Beauty enthroned” under the “arch of life” where love and death, terror, and mystery guard her shrine. The idea of the beauty of the soul being enthroned is a metaphor that implies it is powerful and revered, and the arch of life suggests that beauty is a fundamental part of existence.
Soul’s Beauty is a reflection on the nature of beauty, and the powerful and all-encompassing influence it has on the speaker’s life. The speaker describes beauty as a powerful and revered force that is present in all aspects of life, and is drawn to it with ease, despite its potential to evoke “terror.” The poem also speaks about the speaker’s personal experience with beauty, describing how it has been a constant presence in their life, and how they have pursued it in various ways and days.
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it,–as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.
The Soul’s Expression expresses the speaker’s struggles to express the innermost thoughts, feelings and music of their soul. The speaker strives to do so with words, but finds themselves stammering and not being able to fully convey their message. Elizabeth Barrett Browning also talks about the interwoven nature of dreams, thoughts, and feeling in their creative process, and the depth and height that these emotions take on, which are of mystic quality. The speaker wants to deliver the music of their soul but finds it difficult to do so through the portals of the senses.
The final two lines of the poem describe the speaker’s fear of the intensity of their own expression, suggesting that if they were able to fully express their soul’s music, it would be so powerful that it would destroy their physical body, like a thunderbolt breaking its own cloud. The poem speaks of the power of self-expression and the intensity of the emotional landscape that one traverses while expressing oneself.
Poetry has the ability to move and touch the soul in ways that other forms of literature cannot. The beauty and power of poetry are that it can be interpreted and experienced differently by each reader, and as such, it allows for a deeply personal connection. Whether it is a captain leading a ship, or any metaphor for leadership, the power of poetry lies in its ability to connect to the reader’s emotions and thoughts, and ultimately bring about self-reflection and understanding.
I hope you’ve had a good time reading, and if you’re in the mood for some more, here are some suggestions:
Thomas Dao is the guy who created Poem Home, a website where people can read about all things poetry related. When he’s not busy working on his next project, you can find him reading a good book or spending time with family and friends.