Remembrance – Emily Bronte – analysis

Remembrance

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?

Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.

But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.

Then did I check the tears of useless passion—
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

Emily Bronte

Eight four line stanzas with rhyming scheme abab. It is regarded as iambic pentameter though the lines vary in syllables – so iambic pentameter with variations …

And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
^ ^^ ^ ^ / ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ = 11
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;

Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
^ ^^ ^ ^ / ^ ^^^ ^^ = 11
How could I seek the empty world again?
^ ^ ^ ^ ^ / ^^ ^ ^^ = 10

Emily Bronte wrote the poem for the heroine in the ‘Gondal’ story she created with her sister Anne – so it doesn’t relate to any personal event in her life.

C. Day Lewis stated that the effect of the rhythm in ‘Remembrance’ is ‘extremely powerful, extremely appropriate’ and that ‘it is the slowest rhythm he knew in English poetry, and the most sombre.’

It is certainly a slow and sombre lamentation. It also uses repetition to remain caught in any forward movement as in – cold in the earth in the opening line of stanza 1 and stanza 2. And in stanza 5 – All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given, / All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee, also the repeat of dare not in the last stanza.

The last stanza indicates a moving on and a more positive ending than remaining wallowing in the grave of another.

I think one syllable words lend themselves to a slow rendition (e.g. cold, snow, slow). Consider – the old train moves down the track – by a slow reading we can give the impression that the train is moving slowly.

To digress, consider these two lines …
Quick Mick do it – a case of not labouring the words and joining ‘do’ and ‘it’ as one.
John shook hands with great aunt Jo – difficult not to take your time when reading. If aunt Jo is old and feeble John would have to take his time when shaking hands!

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