‘Shall earth no more inspire thee‘ by Emily Brontë is a seven stanza poem that is separated into four-line sections. The stanzas follow a basic rhyming scheme of abab, that alters, but stays consistent in pattern, throughout the entirety of the poem.
Summary of Shall earth no more inspire thee
The poem begins with the speaker asking her listener if they are stuck in a dark place within their mind. She wants to know if they are no longer inspired to action by the beauties of the earth and are instead stuck in “lonely” contemplation.
The speaker goes on to describe how things once were. She knows the love that the listener once held for the earth, and uses everything she can to get this person to emerge from their hiding place and once more “bow” before nature. The speaker makes clear, as the poem progresses, that she, the earth, is the only one who can appeal to the listener’s emotions. Therefore, he/she should come back and “dwell” alongside and inside the warmth of the earth.
Analysis of Shall earth no more inspire thee
Shall earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee
Shall Nature cease to bow?
The poem begins with the speaker stating the line that became the title of the piece, “Shall earth no more inspire thee.” This question raises a lot of questions in itself. A reader will immediately be wondering, what will one no longer be inspired to do? And how was the earth previously helping? And what has changed? All of these questions, at least to an extent, will be answered as the poem progresses through its seven stanzas.
The second line helps to give the reader a bit more context as to how the earth was an inspirational force, and how the subject of the poem, the “thee,” has been changed. This person used to be a powerful and perhaps optimistic dreamer, now though, the speaker wants to know if that has changed. She is asking this person if now they are “lonely” as they dream, or dream lonely dreams.
It is as if the subject’s mind has moved away from a topic that once interested and motivated them. They are no longer entranced by the beauty and possibilities of the earth. It has ceased to be something of interest to them. It is important to remember that the reader, and the speaker, are not sure that this is actually the case. The speaker is asking a question, trying to confirm what she thinks. She does not know absolutely that this person has had a change in their spiritual compass.
The second two lines provide the reader with even more context. The speaker is asking another question, she wants to know if since the “passion” in this person’s life no longer “fire[s]” or inspire them, is “Nature” no longer important? The subject seems to be having a crisis of confidence. It is as if he/she has lost their faith in the earth and nature.
Thy mind is ever moving
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving—
Come back and dwell with me.
The second stanza speaks further about what is going on inside the subject’s mind. The speaker states that “Thy mind” is always moving somewhere else. They are thinking of “dark” things and are mentally “roving” through dangerous territory. She asks this person to leave this terrible place and return to where she is. She hopes that he/she will come back to her, and “dwell” alongside her.
While the reader never gets a full description of who this person is, or who he/she is to the speaker, one is able to assume that they are very close. Their relationship is personal. Perhaps they are a lover, close friend, or even a family member.
I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still—
I know my sunshine pleases
Despite thy wayward will.
The speaker continues on her quest to bring this person back to her. She uses everything she knows about them to draw them back to safety. She is hoping to get them out of the dark recesses of their mind, and back into familiar territory.
The speaker reminds the listener that her “mountain breezes” are still able to “Enchant” and “soothe thee.” And that her “sunshine pleases” this person. At this point in the poem, it starts to become clear that the earth is going to be playing a large part in this narrative. In fact, the speaker is narrating ‘Shall earth no more inspire thee‘ as if she is herself the earth. Whether that is the case or not, she feels as if she has a similar power. She is able, at least metaphorically, to control the elements and use them to her advantage.
When day with evening blending
Sinks from the summer sky,
I’ve seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatry.
The speaker continues trying to entrance her listener and points out to him/her that she has seen them “bending / In fond idolatry” when the sun is setting in the evening. While this person might try to deny it, she has seen the way that they appreciate the natural and beautiful elements of the world. She knows that she need only remind him/her of this fact and hopefully the listener will return to his/her worship and leave the darkness behind.
I’ve watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway,
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.
The speaker states that she has “watched thee” through all the hours of the day. She is with this person constantly, giving credence to the idea that this speaker could be the earth itself. She is always there to see what the listener is doing and experience what he/she is feeling.
The speaker knows the “mighty sway” that she has over the listener and is fully aware of her “magic powers.” She has the ability to improve the listener’s whole outlook on life. She can “drive thy griefs away.”
Few hearts to mortals given
On earth so wildly pine;
Yet none would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.
In the second to last stanza, she is reminding the listener that he/she is special among humankind. This person is singled out by the fact that he/she has a heart that is rarely given. It is so sure, and so wild in its emotions that only a few have anything comparable. The listener has “pine[d]” with such raw emotion in the past that she knows the strength he/she has.
Additionally, she states her appreciation for this person. She knows that while many might spend their whole lives wishing for heaven, he/she is happy to spend eternity on earth. This is another rare quality in humankind.
Then let my winds caress thee;
Thy comrade let me be—
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return and dwell with me.
The final stanza is the speaker’s last plea for the listener to return to her. She asks that this person allow her “winds caress thee” and let her be “They comrade.” The speaker wants to be close to the listener, but is unable to do so due to the walls this person has put up.
Her final appeal is to state the fact that there is no one on the planet that can do for “you” what she is able. She is the only one who can “bless” the listener. Therefore, he/she should “return and dwell” alongside her.