Anne Brontë was a poet who was remarkable ahead of her time, having lived during the first half of the nineteenth century in rural England with her father and sisters, Emile and Charlotte Brontë, all of whom are known for their remarkable literary talents. Anne, the youngest of her father’s children, and last born before his wife’s passing, endured her share of grief and sorrow throughout her life, and much of her melancholy worldview is preserved in her body of work. Yes Thou Art Gone, from the title alone, promises to continue this aspect of her work, invoking strong themes of sorrow and loss before the poem even begins.
Many of Anne Brontë’s poems that invoke themes of loss are speculated to have been written for William Weightman, a family friend with whom Anne may have been infatuated. The true nature of their relationship, if indeed there ever was one, is unknown, however at least one of Anne Brontë’s mourning poems is believed to have been written as a memorial for Weightman. With that in mind, Brontë was no stranger to tragedy in her life, as her mother, three of her sisters, and Weightman had all passed away by the time Anne herself died at the young age of 29, in 1849. The prevalence of loss in Anne Brontë’s life makes poems such as Yes Thou Art Gone sadly common elements of her body of work, and her genuine sorrow makes them all the more touching, moving, and powerful.
Yes Thou Art Gone Analysis
Yes, thou art gone! and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door,
And pace the floor that covers thee,
May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that, frozen, lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.
The first verse of Yes Thou Art Gone is much longer than the two that follow it, and it needs to be as long as it is to establish a kind of background for the story Brontë wishes to tell. From the first line and title of the poem, it is clear that this will be a lament, and word choices such as “and never more” emphasize this finality that is a clear theme for the poem. From the second line, Brontë juxtaposes the “sunny smile” and gladness of her memories with that theme, and with images such as “the old church door” to create a powerful image of wrongness to be instilled within the reader.
That sense of wrongness is further emphasized by the simplicity with which the speaker states that the old church floor covers the subject of the poem, that they can pace above the body, and liken the stone to their deceased companion. Describing the floor as stone, cold, and damp is an effective means of conveying the heavy, sorrowful, lingering atmosphere that Yes Thou Art Gone embodies so well. Finally, the two closing lines of the verse are lighter in content, being based around fond memories of the good-natured personality of the deceased. Again, this is juxtaposed with the frozen body described in the third-to-last line, which in itself stands at odds with the sunny smile described earlier — a frozen sunny smile is an oxymoron designed to emphasize that sense of wrongness at the idea that this person is dead.
Yet, though I cannot see thee more,
‘Tis still a comfort to have seen;
And though thy transient life is o’er,
‘Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;
The second verse is notably shorter than the first one, and speaks very simply about the idea of finding comfort in memories after the physical being is gone. Without the future to look forward to, the speaker relies on the past for their comfort, acknowledging that having lost a person who once had lived is still a better state than having never known them at all. The verse is written in a rather different tone than the first one, using words such as “sweet,” “transient,” and “comfort” to add an almost romanticized aura to the piece. It is clear already that the deceased meant a great deal to the speaker, but the careful, almost delicate use of language and rhyme here is vey suggestive of a deep attachment and caring relationship that can be plainly interpreted by the reader simply through these conscious choices by Brontë.
To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form, so angel fair,
United to a heart like thine,
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.
The last verse is the most far removed from the gloomy sorrow of the first verse, and makes sense of why the poem is called “Yes Thou Art Gone,” rather than something more tragic or sad. The title speaks of acceptance — the simple use of the word “yes” tells the reader that this is the story of someone accepting loss, rather than being consumed by it. The descriptions used in this final verse portray the deceased as an angelic figure, one who was beautiful to look at and kind in spirit. Use of the phrase “to think” as a means of introducing the verse implies a sense of wonder, or amazement, as though the speaker, reflecting upon the life their companion has led, is simply amazed that they were allowed to share in it.
Each verse of Yes Thou Art Gone has a slightly different atmosphere that informs it; it begins with its longest verse, filled with grief and sorrow. The second verse, shorter, acts as a kind of bridge between that sadness and the acceptance indicated in the third verse. The transition from grief into acceptance is an important theme in Yes Thou Art Gone, which even goes so far as to note that the saddest aspect of the poem is its longest verse, because it is much more difficult to accept pain than it is to be consumed by it. Brontë’s careful construction of this poem is what makes it such a thematically and atmospherically powerful piece.