The message of the poem Essay
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The title of the poem is directly taken from the first line, which immediately conveys the poet’s cynical attitude towards life and her isolation from the world. No one would care for her anymore. Despite this, she “never caused a thought of gloom” because she had been distanced from the society and lost her feelings and hopes. “A smile of joy, since I was born” is said as if the poet is trying to cheer herself up in the moment of depression.
She seems very firm and does not need any consolation, but in fact, this is not true. In this stanza, the poet talks directly to us, using earnest language and direct words. She lays bare her lonely soul to us. The diction is not at all euphemistic. Words such as “doom”, “mourn”, “gloom”, “joy” are strong and direct.
In stanza 2, the poet goes on telling about her life. Her life is “secret”, as shown in “In secret pleasure – secret tears”.
Her secret pleasure is probably achieved through writing, while secret tears mean her sadness which nobody cares or even knows. The repetition of the word “secret”, furthermore, places emphasis on her desolation. Then, she mentions “This changeful life has slipped away.” A sense of poignancy infuses this line when we learn that her life is almost over. She seems to feel that life is not worth it. She remains “friendless” and “lonely”, having spent her eighteen-year-old lifetime being isolated from the world. The doomed youth, marked out from birth for sorrow and tragedy, provides pathos for the poem.
The third stanza follows, drawing the reader’s attention into her past. “There have been times I cannot hide, / There have been times when this was drear.” The word “hide” should mean her living in “secret pleasure, secret tears”. The repetition of “There have been times” emphasizes that she has failed many times to be independent. She refers to her longing for care, love and a comfortable life as a “drear” experience. “When my sad soul forgot its pride / And longed for one to love me here” is said as if she has no intention to blame “pride” for her present loneliness. It is pride that leads her to loneliness, but it seems that she has chosen it herself. Nevertheless, it may not mean that she does not need love. This stanza is only a mere self-consolation of no use, which further highlights the poet’s melancholy mood.
The fourth stanza continues to tell us that her longing for love have gone. It belongs to the past already, which may be because she is accustomed to the despondency she has faced. “Glow” symbolizes youth, warmth and passion, but the preceding word “early” makes it bitter and far from reach. The sense of disillusionment is clearly expressed in the line “And they have died so long ago”.
In stanza 5, the poet remembers her past. The “hope of youth” and “Fancy’s rainbow” have vanished completely. The image of “Fancy’s rainbow” is colourful and bright, yet abstract, intangible and transient. This matches perfectly Bronte’s unrestrained imagination (as shown in her writing) and great expectations, which later “fast withdrew”. “And then experience told me truth / In mortal bosoms never grew.” She thinks that truth never exists in her mind because many times she has been deceived by the cruelty of life. The metaphor of “mortal bosoms” lends the poem a deeply pessimistic tone that no moment of life, which she may have cherished, can last forever.
The final stanza concludes the whole poem: ‘Twas grief to think mankind All hollow, servile, insincere – But worse to trust to my own mind And find the same corruption there. A list of three adjectives with negative meanings (hollow, servile, insincere) is presented in the second line of this stanza, showing her misanthropic attitude. The sibilants in “servile” and “insincere”, together with the pauses between the three words, slow down the pace of the final lines of the poem. The word “corruption” in the last line is very powerful and dominates the line, even the poem. It has a decaying, mournful sound which enhances its meanings.
The message of the poem is that human beings are corrupt by nature and no matter how much hope one has he cannot escape this. No one is trust-worthy, including the poet herself. The sense of rottenness seems attached to everybody’s life since his “natal day”. The poet finally recognizes that she is deceived by not only her life, but also her own mind/spirit, which may mean whatever she hopes for, including her longing for love, is not going to come true. A sense of self-ridicule is displayed here. The poet should have realized that pursuing the life of a cynic, being too proud and trusting her own self excessively, are kinds of “corruption”.
Emily Bronte lacked interaction with people outside her family and led a lonely life, which is reflected in her poetry. This poem is written looking back on her life and the cynicism she has pursued. Its theme is about the pessimistic view of “mankind”. It is reflective of human nature and its much corruption which no individual is able to escape. It puts a great deal of emphasis on the poet’s real life. She successively portrays the dichotomy between “childish ambitions/fantasies” and “undeniable reality” as she comes to realize the worthlessness of “mankind” as she grows up. The poem does not mention any cheerful, happy emotions. Only “dark”, unwanted emotions are portrayed. Some emotions are originally delightful (e.g. “A smile of joy”), but they have “melted off” already and become vague behind the veil of gloom.
The poem is written in iambic pentameter, following a strict rhyme scheme (ABAB), with 8 syllables per line. The rhymes are used to slow down the pace of the poem and make the poet’s honest words hover in the reader’s mind so we can think carefully and understand her life and feelings better.
Bronte wrote the poem in a first person narration, “I am the only being whose doom”, to create an effect of realism throughout the poem. By doing so, she is able to effectively portray her past experiences, as the first person form allows the readers to position themselves as herself. The repeated uses of “I” and “my” underline the poem’s first person point of view. Bronte also uses emotive language to express the full extent of her depressive feelings, as shown in words like “doom”, “mourn”, “gloom”, “tears”, “friendless”, “lone”, “drear”, “died”, “grief”, “hollow” and “corruption”.
Moreover, the use of personification (“sad soul”, “experience told me truth”, “[feelings] have died so long ago”, etc.) throughout the poem depicts her state of desolation, and that no other human is present to comfort her during her depressive times. Therefore, she personifies some of her emotions and feelings. Some critics argue that the narrator of this poem is a prototype of Heathcliff in Bronte’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. However, we must not deny that it has very real emotions and is very well written.