Exultation is the Going, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"EXULTATION IS THE GOING" by Emily Dickinson captures the exhilaration and profound transformation of an individual's journey from familiar surroundings to the vast unknown. The poem explores the concept of venturing into uncharted territory, both in a physical and metaphorical sense.


Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea,
Past the houses — past the headlands —
Into deep Eternity —
Bred as we, among the mountains,
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?


"EXULTATION IS THE GOING" conveys the profound sense of exhilaration and liberation experienced when an individual embarks on a journey from the familiar to the unknown. The poem uses the metaphor of a sailor leaving land for the open sea to explore the concept of venturing into new territories.

Critical Analysis

The poem "EXULTATION IS THE GOING" delves into the transformative nature of departing from the known and venturing into the unknown. It highlights the intense joy and exhilaration that accompanies such journeys.

The term "exultation" suggests a sense of triumph and excitement. The act of "going" signifies both physical departure and a spiritual or emotional journey.

The phrase "Of an inland soul to sea" symbolizes the movement of an individual's inner self from a confined or familiar space (inland) to a vast and unexplored realm (sea).

The repetition of "past the houses — past the headlands" emphasizes the progression beyond familiar landmarks and human constructs, suggesting a departure from the ordinary world.

The reference to "deep Eternity" conveys the idea of venturing into the eternal and infinite, beyond the limitations of time and space.

The comparison between a person born "among the mountains" and a sailor highlights the notion that individuals who have grown accustomed to challenging or rugged environments can better appreciate the divine sense of intoxication and exhilaration experienced when embarking on a new journey.


  • Transformation and Exploration: The poem explores the transformative power of embarking on a journey into the unknown, both in physical and metaphorical terms.
  • Exhilaration and Freedom: The concept of "exultation" conveys the excitement and liberation felt when breaking free from familiar surroundings and limitations.
  • Spiritual and Metaphysical Journeys: The poem suggests that the journey from the known to the unknown can also represent a spiritual or emotional exploration of new perspectives and experiences.


  • Exhilaration: The poem conveys a sense of exhilaration and joy that comes with leaving the familiar behind and embarking on a new journey.
  • Curiosity and Wonder: The poem evokes a feeling of curiosity and wonder about the mysteries and possibilities that lie beyond the known world.


  • Metaphor and Symbolism: The use of the sailor and the sea as metaphors symbolizes the journey from the known to the unknown and the experience of exploring uncharted territories.
  • Imagery: The imagery of passing "past the houses — past the headlands" vividly portrays the departure from familiar landmarks and the transition into the unknown.

Reflect on the poem's portrayal of the exhilaration of embarking on new journeys and the transformative power of exploration. How does the metaphor of a sailor's journey resonate with your own experiences of venturing into the unknown? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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