Analysis of Emily Jane Brontë’s Poem “Life”

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A portrait of Emily Brontë made by her brother, Branwell Brontë

Emily Jane Brontë  (1818 – 1848) was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel Wuthering Heights, a classic of English literature. Her sister Charlotte Brontë (1816 – 1855) was the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood, and is best known for the novel Jane Eyre, another classic of English literature. Anne Brontë (1820 –1849) was the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. Her best-known novels are Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

(Left to right – Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. Their brother Branwell, is the shadowy figure in the middle. He apparently painted himself out of the portrait.)

Together the sisters also published a volume of poetry called Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. (The pen names of the sisters.) In that volume Emily penned a short poem titled “Life.” She was in her twenties when it was written, and some might think it juvenile, naive, childish or overly optimistic.

But to me it is simple yet unpretentious, both hopeful and reassuring, displaying a pleasant youthful innocence that so many cynics have forgotten. I like the poem. And it rhymes!

LIFE, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?

Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly!

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

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