by Emily Brontë
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?
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?
“Remembrance” is an elegy. The major themes of this poem are loss of love, melancholy and death. The speaker is presented mourning and remembering someone who died fifteen years prior. The title of the poem suggests that it is about remembering someone, and the speaker is a probably a woman who gets strength from the old memories of her lover. The memories serve as a guiding force for her, and give her a sort of inspiration.
The mood of the poem changes dramatically from mourning to optimistic acceptance of the sorrow. The poem is set at first in the cold, where there is snow piling over the lover’s grave. The focus of the speaker is the lover’s tomb. The poem begins by saying that the speaker’s lover is lying “far removed, cold in the dreary grave!” The first question she raises is whether the period of fifteen years could have made her forget the lover: “Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, /Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?”
She asks another rhetorical question in the second stanza, wondering whether her thoughts still flew to him, “Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover/ Thy noble heart forever, ever more?” She provides answers to both rhetorical questions in the next stanza. Continuing with the opening sentiment, the speaker uses the connotation of December to bring to mind cold, heavy snow and death. Hence, fifteen years are “fifteen wild Decembers,” and she survived and faced those painful years after which the spring came and brought life with it. This shows that she stayed faithful to her lover despite the distractions of this world during fifteen long years.
In the fourth stanza, she asks her lover to “forgive, if I forget thee,” due to “Other desires and other hopes.” She uses the metaphor “world’s tide” to represent changes in time and life. Then she states that there is no other light and no other sorrow; all her pleasures and ecstasies lie with him in his grave.
The speaker reveals the way she got strength to accept his death and cancel out her “burning wish to hasten/Down to that tomb already more than mine.” While she tries to cherish her existence, she acknowledges that she does so “without the aid of joy.” By the end of the poem, she has learned to control her passions without indulging in “memory’s rapturous pain,” referring to the memory of her lover’s death. The last rhetorical question wraps up this elegy by comparing memory’s anguish to the process of looking for “the empty world.”
The poem is written in a lyrical form, comprising eight stanzas with four lines each. The speaker has used alternating and regular rhyme scheme as ABAB (though each stanza has different rhymes) such as:
Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee, A
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave! B
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, A
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave? B
The poem has iambic pentameter such as in “Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,” and anapestic meter appears as well, such as in “From those brown hills, have melted into spring.” Also, there is a refrain, “Cold in the earth” inserted in the third stanza. There is repetition of the word “ever” in “forever, ever more” and of “dare not,” which is used in the final stanza to emphasize the theme. These repeated phrases convey the message in an effective manner. The poet has used anaphora in the fifth stanza, which is a deliberate repetition of the first part of the words or phrases at the beginning of the consecutive sentences, clauses or verses, in this case being “All my life’s bliss.” The anaphora creates poetic effect and further adds to the rhythm. The diction of the poem is highly figurative and suggestive.
Guidance for Usage of Quotes
This poem is an elegy that is about the memories of a loved one, who has died several years in the past, and the speaker is mourning the loss. The speaker clings to her memories, and wants to live her life with these memories. The poet has explained how indulgence of sorrow could be sometimes pleasing. Those who have lost lovers can express their love by dedicating quotes from this poem on special occasions, and relive their memories through these lines:
“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!”