‘No Coward Soul Is Mine’ by Emily Brontë is a seven stanza poem that is made up of four-line stanzas, or quatrains. Each of these quatrains adheres to a strict pattern of rhyme that carries through the entire poem. The first line and third lines of each stanza rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme.
Additionally, Brontë has chosen to make the second and third lines of each stanza substantially longer, at least in most cases, than the first and third.
The poem begins with the speaker stating that she is untouched by fear. The love she has for God, and the power with which she has been bestowed, due to that love, make her unafraid of death.
She describes others who are not of the same moral caliber as she is, and sees them as less. She calls them “Vain” and makes sure to inform the reader that any temptation that might come her way is hopeless against the “boundless main” which is her faith.
The speaker knows that God’s love is without limits. There is nothing that could happen to her, or happen to the world that would eradicate that. The poem concludes with the speaker once more stating that although death is powerful “he” is nothing against the strength of God.
Analysis of No Coward Soul is Mine
No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
The speaker begins this piece by making it clear to the audience that her soul is untroubled. It is not cowardly, nor does it “tremble” at the troubles of the world. There is nothing in the world, she claims, no matter how awful, that could shake the foundations of her soul.
In the next two lines, the reader is provided with the reasoning behind this assertion. She has her faith in God, she sees “Heaven’s glories shine” and is protected from everything. The power of Heaven is a part of her and it arms her from “Fear.” It is the only weapon, or defense, that she needs to make her way through her life.
O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee
The next stanzas of ‘No Coward Soul Is Mine’ are spoken directly to God. She is praising “Him” while also explaining to the reader that the “Almighty,” omni, or “ever-present” force of Him within her is what is giving her the confidence to face the world. He has provided her with “Life” and that life within her is a representation of God’s “Undying Life.”
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
While the speaker’s heart might be pure and full of God, other people’s hearts are not so well protected.
The speaker is meditating on all the endless things that “move men’s hearts.” They are moved by “creeds” that are “unutterably vain.” She is speaking of all the human wants that drive men and women forward from money to a love that is not for God. She condemns these types of people. She feels utter contempt for how they live their lives and their faith, if they have any, in God. The speaker refers to those that are not as strong as she is as being “Vain.” These people might give in to the temptations of the world, but she would never do that.
The next lines continue into stanza four. One must complete the phrase to the end, to understand the beginning.
The speaker is saying that she is so steadfast in her morality and faith that any doubt that might be present is “Worthless as withered weeds” in the “boundless” and endlessly powerful ocean. If they are present, they are unable to influence her. Just as “idlest froth” in the ocean has no impact on the currents.
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
She is the one to whom she refers in this first line. It is her faith that is impenetrable and without room for doubt. The speaker is the way she is because she is “Holding so fast” and is “surely anchored” on the rock that is “Immortality.” She has her mindset on God and heaven and there is nothing she would do to jeopardize that.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
The “spirit” of God that is present in the world is all-powerful. It is like a “wide-embracing love” that “Pervades” through all the years of life. It might change form, or create” or “rear,” but it is always there.
Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
In the second to last quatrain of ‘No Coward Soul Is Mine’, the speaker proposes a future in which every part of our known world has vanished. There is no Earth, or Moon, and neither are there “suns and universes.” All of these bodies have “ceased to be” but God has not. His “Existence” would hold all that was lost.
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
The speaker concludes ‘No Coward Soul Is Mine’ by once more speaking of her lack of fear about death. She makes clear to the reader that there is “not room for Death” in her world. Death has no power over her and there is no “atom” of his “might” that would touch God’s power.
God consumes everything and everyone, from every “Being” to every “Breath.” He can never be destroyed, even by something as seemingly powerful as “Death.”
About Emily Brontë
Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England in July of 1818. She was the fifth child born to the Brontës, and in 1821, her mother passed away from cancer. Her two oldest sisters, Elizabeth and Maria would die only four years later of tuberculosis, a disease that would haunt her family.
Emily Brontë spent most of her time in her home at Haworth where she explored her passion for writing. She would go on to publish Wuthering Heights, and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, with whom she shared sibling pen names, would publish Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. While Wuthering Heights did not receive any kind of critical praise when it was published, it is now considered one of the greatest novels of all time.
Emily died in 1848 of tuberculosis and her sister, Anne, would pass away from the same disease only one year later. Last was Charlotte, who died six years later of pneumonia.