In Cold In The Earth, Emily Brönte portrays a struggle. The lyrical voice of the poem suffers the loss of a loved one and has to learn to live with the pain. To depict this, Emily Brönte creates an imagery of cold, building intense and passionate impressions. Moreover, Cold In The Earth describes profound emotions through a great variety of literary devices. The stanzas portray the passing of time and how the lyrical voice will go through the mourning, accepting his/her loss. The central themes of the poem are death, love, and time. Time acquires a central signification, since it is described as the central force of nature that can make the lyrical voice accept his/her loss and heal. Furthermore, sorrow and guilt, additionally, conduct the lyrical voice into a constant apology to his/her lost one.
The form of the poem is very traditional and has an ABAB rhyme scheme. This form responds to a song, and particularly, a song of mourning. The slow and regular pace of the poem can also be associated with the heartbeat. The tone of Cold In The Earth is nostalgic, and yearns for the past continuously throughout the poem. By evoking remembrances, the lyrical voice will link his present sorrow with his/her much beloved past.
Cold In The Earth Analysis
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-wearing wave?
In this first stanza, the lyrical voice thinks of his/her loved one. It is winter time, so the state of the loved one will be associated with an imagery of cold. This loved one will remain distant and cold from the lyrical voice, not just because of death, but because of the passing of time. The lyrical voice questions him/herself about forgetting. It seems crucial for the lyrical voice not to forget to love this person that has died (“Have I forgot, my Only Love, to love thee.”). Notice how the lyrical voice refers to this loved one by capitalizing his/her reference. Therefore, the lyrical voice’s loved one is not just someone he/she loved; it is her/his “Only Love”. This loss, therefore, acquires a great significance for the lyrical voice and for the poem. The passing of time is mentioned as an “all-wearing wave” and could make the remembrance of the loved one weaker. Therefore, the act of remembering is also associated with a guilt that the lyrical voice feels towards forgetting the lost one.
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains on Angora’s shore;
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
That noble heart for ever, ever more?
In this stanza, the lyrical voice mentions the impossibility to continue without his/her loved one. After his/her death, the lyrical voice can no longer wander in positive and imaginative thoughts. This loss made the lyrical voice enter into a grief that doesn’t let him/her continue with his/her life. The lyrical voice constantly remembers the death of his/her loved one and can’t do nothing but think of her/him and remember her/him.
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!
In this third stanza, the first image of the lost loved one is repeated “Cold in the earth”. However, the lyrical voice describes the passing of time using direct references related to the change of seasons. Fifteen years passed since the death and the same place has gone through a big number of alterations during that time. After emphasizing the passing of time, the lyrical voice talks about him/herself and mentions that “Faithful indeed is the spirit that remembers”. The voice of the poem states that after all those years he/she still remembers even though a lot of things happened between the death and the present time. This will stress the fact that the lyrical voice still thinks of his/her loved one.
Sweet Love of youth, forgive if I forget thee
While the World’s tide is bearing me along:
Sterner desires and darker hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure but cannot do thee wrong.
In this stanza, the act of forgetting is mentioned again. The lyrical voice talks to his loved one and asks for forgiveness. He/she is afraid that, because of the passing of time, he/she would forget his/her loved one. Time is mentioned as before, compared to a wave because of the resemblance of the movement. The lyrical voice says that he/she is covered by dark desires. The dark imagery will represent these new thoughts that would make the lyrical voice forget about his/her loved one. However, the lyrical voice ends the stanza by telling his/her loved one that these thoughts, darker as they are portrayed, will never change the lyrical voice’s though about he/she.
No other Sun has lightened up my heaven;
No other Star 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
In this stanza, the lyrical voice compares his/her loved one with elements of nature and talks about his/her emotional significance. Notice the strong repetition in the sentence form; the first two lines begin (“No other”) and express the same message, just like the third and fourth line. Here the light imagery represents the loved one and the good moments spent with him/her. The lyrical voice also states that no other will compare to his/her loved one which made him/her the happiest. Moreover, the stanza ends making a direct and strong reference to the death of his/her loved one. All his/her happiness was with her/his loved one and now it is gone and dies just like the one he/she loved.
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;
This stanza represents a turning point to the lyrical voice. The lyrical voice says that even after all that suffering and after the death of his/her loved one he/she can move on with his/her life. Notice how the good times once again are represented by light (“golden dreams”). Furthermore, “Despair” is personified and capitalized. Notice how overcoming despair is greatly important for the lyrical voice because of how it is referred. The lyrical voice appears as a first person (“Then did I learn) and says that he/she learned to live with the pain. Life can continue, even “without the aid of joy”. The poem acquires a new tone, in which the lyrical voice will stop focusing on the past and start looking towards the future.
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!
In this stanza, the lyrical voice emphasizes the ideas of the previous stanza. His/her suffering increases as the lyrical voice struggles; the question is whether to stay faithful or to move on. Those tears shed by the lyrical voice are now from a “useless passion” and are accustomed to cry over the lost loved one. The lyrical voice’s wishes seem to be denied by the memory of the lost one, refusing the possibility of living his/her life.
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?
This final stanza focuses on the failure of living life without the loved one. The lyrical voice says that he/she tried to forget his/her loved one. However, his/her perception of life is changed forever and moving on becomes incredibly complicated. The world is described as empty and holds neither positive thoughts, nor future to the lyrical voice. Notice the strength of the last line; the poem ends with a question that accentuates the impossibility of moving on. The lyrical voice’s suffering, rather than resolved, are still acute. Moreover, this stanza has several oxymorons which accentuate the suffering that the lyrical voice is experimenting. These strong images reflect the passion and the intense emotions that the lyrical voice has.
About Emily Brönte
Emily Brönte was a great English novelist. Her most famous and recognized work is Wuthering Heights. Emily had two sisters, Anne and Charlotte, which were also writers and are now considered great novelists. They all had to sign their works with pen names as women were not published at that time. Emily Brönte’s style is characterized by strong and passionate images.