Emily Brontë’s Poem “Life”

Emily Brontë cropped.jpg

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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2 thoughts on “Emily Brontë’s Poem “Life”

  1. I can’t measure the ways an introductory course in British Literature has enriched my entire life. Reluctant at first to engage in old, funny English lit., I was soon captured with the assistance of a wonderful english professor, Ms. McCarthy, Ph.d. In addition to the Bronte sisters (what a talented family), there was George Elliot’s (Mary Ann Evans), Adam Bede, and Silas Marner; Jane Austin and all the memorable characters Charles Dickens created–Fagan, Uriah Heep, and of course, the Christmas Scrooge. While the language of old english writings took a lot of patience and explanation, Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and Shakespeare’s Falstaff in Henry IV, parts one and two turned me into a life long fan. Much of what I learned is now obsolete, but these literary characters have been a constant. Thank you professor McCarthy, et. al. for a lifetime of enrichment.

  2. What a nice tribute to a great teacher. I too have had teachers who inspired me. As for old English I remember the first time I read

    Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
    The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
    And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

    I now knew I was in trouble. And Shakespeare still very hard for me. Sounds like you understood it all a lot better than I did.

    John

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