On A Columnar Self: Poem - Summary and Analysis

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On A Columnar Self

On A columnar Self
How ample to rely
In Tumult-or Extremity-
How good the Certainty

That Lever cannot pry-
And Wedge cannot divide
Conviction-That Granitic base-
Though None be on our Side-

Suffice Us-for a Crowd-
Ourself-and Rectitude
And that Assembly-not far off
From furthest Spirit-God-

On A columnar Self How ample to rely In Tumult-or Extremity- How good the Certainty
On A columnar Self


      Written in 1863, this poem shows the self-sufficiency of the individual soul, or the self. It further shows that a person enjoys the freedom to choose his own company. It means that the self is not bound by any social or religious considerations or code.

      The poet celebrates the self-sufficiency of self in this poem which cannot be compromised in any case. Self must fight for retaining its own identity or individuality under any circumstances. It must remain strong, firm and singular to enhance its credibility or reliance. Then, in any crisis, difficulty the soul is secure in the knowledge that nothing can break, damage or shatter his faith in the supreme power of the individual self. A man of strong will and conviction can go ahead even if he is denied the support of a society. This soul needs only himself and his own rectitude to constitute a crowd, or an assembly. This is how he feels identified with God. This individual soul might be seen as an emanation of one part of the Oversoul which repossessed it when its mortal existence was finished.

Critical Analysis

Explanation with Reference to Context:

On a Columnar Self-
How amply to rely
In Tumult-or Extremity-
How good the Certainty.

How Lever cannot pry-
And Wedge cannot divide
Conviction-That Granitic Base
Though None be on our Side.

      The poem 'On a Columnar Self' is the celebration of the autonomy of Self. For Dickinson, Self should not be governed by any social or religious code. Self is the master of his own destiny and cannot like any type of interference in his life. Self is thus self-governed and needs no external support.

      Self is as strong as a column and is capable of bearing all the stresses and rains of life. He is symbol of power, beauty and tolerance. Self is quite confident of handling violent emotional disturbances. He remains cool and composed during the period of hardships and misfortunes. He is noted for firm conviction or set ideology.

      A man of firm conviction sticks to his ideology and refuses to change it under threat or pressure. He refuses to compromise with his convictions even at the time of crisis in his life. He will never speak through a borrowed voice at any point of time in his life. No force on earth can force a man of strong convictions to forego his ideology of life. He will remain committed to it till the end of his life even if he has none to support him.

Suffice Us-for a Crowd-
Oneself-and Rectitude
And that Assembly-not far off
From further Spirit-God.

      This is the concluding stanza of the poem 'On a Columnar Self' which is devoted to the glorification of Self. Man should enjoy absolute autonomy in his life. He is strong enough to face the buffets of life. He needs no external help to make a mark in his life.

      Man must repose absolute faith in his ability and power to plan his life. He should retain his identity and individuality at all cost. He must be a man of self steem to retain his social image in his life. He must display the feeling of righteousness in public. He should try to identify with God who is the creator of all spirits. He must raise himself spiritually for his self-extension.


'Columnar' - having the quality of a column. It stands for power, beauty, solidity and endurance.
'Ample' - enough.
'Rely' - to depend on someone.
'Tumult' - violent emotional disturbance.
'Extremity' - time of hardship and misfortunes. 'Certainty' - firm conviction or ideology.
'Lever' - it is an instrument for applying pressure to push the object which is otherwise to move.
'Pry' - it shows that conviction in oneself cannot be shaken.
'Wedge' - it is a piece of wood used to split open some other object.
'Conviction' - faith in oneself.
'Granite' - a kind of hard stone.
'Base' - foundation.
'Though none be on our side' - one versus others, although shares our convictions.
'Suffice us' - absolute belief in oneself.
'Ourself' - the individual self. It stresses the primacy of the individual self.
'Rectitude' - personification of the feeling of righteousness.
'Assembly' - it refers to the spiritual gathering of the pure spirits.
'Not far off' - nearby.
'Furthest spirit' - it refers to God who is the creator of all the spirits.

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