Come, Walk With Me by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë’s Come, Walk With Me is a poem that resonates in sheer emotional capacity through language alone. In a poem with only a loose structure and faint rhyme, it tells a cryptic story that focuses more on moment-to-moment feeling and passion above all. It is an unusual way to tell a story, but an effective one, one that stands best on its own, and speaks for itself, asking and answering difficult, but important questions about the nature of friendship.

Come, Walk With Me Analysis

Come, walk with me,

There’s only thee

To bless my spirit now –

We used to love on winter nights

To wander through the snow;

Can we not woo back old delights?

The clouds rush dark and wild

They fleck with shade our mountain heights

The same as long ago

And on the horizon rest at last

In looming masses piled;

While moonbeams flash and fly so fast

We scarce can say they smiled –

The first verse of Come, Walk With Me is a long one, and it, along with the rest of the poem, follows a fairly loose pattern. Each line is created and divided with the intention of relaying a single thought, and so there is no distinction between syllable count, word count, or even rhyme, though there is a loose rhyming pattern in “me/thee,” “nights/delights,” “last/fast,” and “piled/smiled.” “Now/snow” is a rhyme of text only, but it adds to the aesthetic of the verse, if to nothing else.

This verse uses heavy natural imagery and melancholic language to convey themes of nostalgia and sadness. The invitation that makes up the title of Come, Walk With Me is offered to an unclear   second individual. According to the first three lines, this person is the only person left in life to “bless the spirit” of the speaker, suggesting a deep emotional connection between the two. The next two lines suggest that they are old friends, who used to love walking through the snow on cold winter nights.

Throughout the rest of the verse, the imagery invoked revolves around the theme of the sixth line: “Can we not woo back old delights?” There is a sense of nostalgia, a suggestion that the two people described have not seen each other in a long time, and that much has changed between the two of them in that time. The clouds, for example, are described as being dark and wild, a likely reflection of the relationship between the two individuals. There are mountains described, a lonely metaphor, as mountains are not often hotspots for human life. When moonbeams flash by, they smile, a personification, but they go past so quickly it is difficult to take in the smile, suggesting that when the two friends do see each other, it is a good moment that passes by too quickly.

Come walk with me, come walk with me;

We were not once so few

But Death has stolen our company

As sunshine steals the dew –

He took them one by one and we

Are left the only two;

So closer would my feelings twine

Because they have no stay but thine –

In a much shorter verse, the story continues. The speaker continues to call to their companion, and, echoing the sentiment that their friend alone can bless their spirit, talks about their other friends. In the past, they were likely a part of a large group of friends who were close companions in life. In the present, all but two of that group have passed away, the speaker and the friend they’re calling to. “As sunshine steals the dew is a strong metaphor that continues the theme of natural imagery, reminding the reader that death is a process that is entirely natural, and that it is something that happens over time, just as evaporation is not an instant process. The speaker then describes that their feeling towards the other are heightened by the fact that there is no one else for them to have them for. The nature of these feelings is unspecified, whether it is romantic in nature or a deep friendship — but the evocative melancholy of the poem so far is all that is needed to express those truly powerful emotions.

Is human love so true?

Can Friendship’s flower droop on for years

And then revive anew?

No, though the soil be wet with tears,

How fair soe’er it grew

The vital sap once perished

Will never flow again

And surer than that dwelling dread,

The narrow dungeon of the dead

Time parts the hearts of men -‘

The final verse takes the themes of Come, Walk With Me to a head by asking the difficult questions the speaker wants to understand — is it possible, having not seen their friend, we learn, for years, to pick up that feeling of love, affection, and companionship right from where it was left and resume that companionship? More importantly, the speaker answers their own question — and say it is not. “The soil [is] wet with tears” is a powerful metaphor for what is meant here. The friendship between the two is likened to being a plant buried in soil. Without the care and attention that comes from being together, the plant that symbolizes their friendship has withered. For a plant to grow, it requires sun, air, and rain — positive images. Tears will not suffice to regrow the plant. What this means is that sorrow and nostalgia are not enough to regrow a friendship. Disconnected for years, the past stops mattering as much to the former friends. Only the present matters, and in that present, the two of them are living in distinct worlds.

The final three lines are cryptic in meaning. The use of alliteration — “dwelling dread,” “dungeon of the dead” — and subsequent breaking of that alliteration in the final verse sets up the concluding thought nicely. “Time parts the hearts of men.” It sounds similar to the cliché, “time heals all wounds.” In this case, the “wounds” are the feelings of missing each other that arises when two friends have been distant for a long time. Time has indeed healed that wound — and now the friends are left to go their separate ways.

Historical Context

Not much is known about Emily Brontë that is unrelated to her work as a poet and novelist. Of her personality, little is said with certainty about her — much of what is known was written by her elder sister after her death, which leads historians to doubt the authenticity of the depiction. Two things that are known about her, however, are that she was a quiet and shy person by nature, and that she had a fierce love of all natural things. To those who were close to her, Emily Brontë was a good friend and confidant, someone who would put the wishes and feelings of her true friends above her own. She grew up largely around her sisters and brother, and was introduced to tragedy early in life when two of her sisters and her mother passed away young. The young Emily often turned to her sister Anne, with whom she created a fantasy world that inspired many of the famous poems written by both of the girls.

With this in mind, it is difficult to say whether or not Come, Walk With Me is a poem written about a particular person in Brontë’s life, or as a story fulfilled by characters created between siblings. Considering the descriptions of her devotion to her friends, it seems plausible that this poem was written over a severed bond that pained Brontë; it is also plausible that she wrote a story for her own entertainment, to console herself in the wake of the tragedies that seemingly followed her family from a young age. The natural inspiration, if nothing else, is clear, as the mood of Come, Walk With Me, and of Emily Brontë herself is well-embodied in dark clouds, towering mountains, and the faint smiles of moonlight.

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