In Memory of a Happy Day in February is a rather specific title. With it, it is impossible to miss what the poem is about — and yet, it also raises a number of questions. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say one main question: what exactly made this day in February so happy? Anne Brontë is a poet known for her sadly short and traumatic life, and so her authorship of a memory, of a happy day to recall, is a refreshing sense of calm and contentedness to stand out from the crowd.
In Memory of a Happy Day in February Analysis
Blessed be Thou for all the joy
My soul has felt today!
O let its memory stay with me
And never pass away!
I was alone, for those I loved
Were far away from me,
The sun shone on the withered grass,
The wind blew fresh and free.
The beginning of the poem sets the joyous tone that informs much of the piece. This joy, evident through Brontë’s word choice and punctuation use, begins right with the first word: “blessed.” From here, the second and fourth verses end with exclamation points, and rhyme perfectly, furthering the joyous tone enough that in the next four verses, the mood does not sour, despite phrases like “I was alone,” “withered grass,” and “those I loved / Were far away.” Instead, it reads as the beginning of an exciting story, one that the speaker is clearly thrilled to be sharing. When the verse ends with “The wind blew fresh and free,” it reinforces the tone of discovery implied by the title of the poem.
Another important thing to note about this verse is the opening line, specifically the word “Thou.” The word itself feels a little misplaced amidst the otherwise closer-to-modern verse, and its capitalization also sets it apart from the rest. It is likely that this is meant as a word with religious significance, as the biblical “Thou,” capitalized, as all words referring to the Abrahamic God are capitalized as a sign of respect. It is likely, therefore, that the happiness from this day has something to do with the speaker’s faith.
Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
‘Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight,
All vague and undefined?
No, ’twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind!
The speaker goes on to describe the moment of happiness suggested by the title, uniquely by describing what it did not feel like. It was not a calm joy that rose from enjoying the natural world, nor was it a vague sense of sudden happiness. This was a clear, honest, and unmistakable surge of happiness that “expanded” the mind of the speaker, suggesting the opening of new possibilities for their entire life. The word “rapture” continues the trend of religious imagery; in Christian literature, the “rapture” is a reference to the Second Coming of Christ.
Was it a sanguine view of life
And all its transient bliss-
A hope of bright prosperity?
O no, it was not this!
It was a glimpse of truth divine
Unto my spirit given
Illumined by a ray of light
That shone direct from heaven!
I felt there was a God on high
By whom all things were made.
I saw His wisdom and his power
In all his works displayed.
The next set of verses give insight as to what the source of the joy was, and, continuing on the theme of religious imagery, it is a revelation of faith. It was not simple hope or bliss, but certain knowledge that the speaker had seen and felt the presence of God. It was a rapture of their spirit, and a sense of something that went beyond hope, but into certainty. The power and wisdom of the Creator was something that they felt on that day in February, seemingly without warning, that filled them with joy.
But most throughout the moral world
I saw his glory shine;
I saw His wisdom infinite,
His mercy all divine.
Deep secrets of his providence
In darkness long concealed
Were brought to my delighted eyes
And graciously revealed.
The description of the world as a “moral world” says a lot about this moment of realization for the speaker. Suddenly, they have begun to view the world in various shades of grey; it is a world of good and bad and of much in-between, and all of it is informed by God. In this moment of faith, the speaker is able to realize and understand the meanings behind the most complex mysteries of the world.
But while I wondered and adored
His wisdom so divine,
I did not tremble at his power,
I felt that God was mine.
I knew that my Redeemer lived,
I did not fear to die;
Full sure that I should rise again
I longed to view that bliss divine
Which eye hath never seen,
To see the glories of his face
Without the veil between.
Finally, during this revelation, the speaker marvels at the realization that they did not fear or cower at the immense power that had been revealed to them, but rather felt safe and secure within it. More than that, they were willed with a great sense of peace at the realization that when they do die, they will have nothing to fear, as they will ascend into Heaven, where they now truly long to be.
In Memory of a Happy Day in February is a poem that examines the power of faith and belief in an interesting way. The description of the world as “moral,” and the concluding metaphor of “the veil between” depict the spiritual world as being one very closely connected with the physical one. In this case, the narrator of the poem is able to perceive into it with no apparent cause, but its power is enough that they do not doubt it for a moment.
The title of the poem itself is also an interesting choice of words. That the poem is about a memory, rather than an actual present event is unusual. Typically, a narrative poem will describe events as they happen, but the wording of the title implies that the revelation occurred over a month before the poem is read. It is possible that this is a commentary on the enduring power of faith; once the speaker realizes their belief, they are able to remember the moment of their freedom with perfect clarity, and can capture the joy their felt even all this time later. It is also possible that the past tense nature of the piece is a commentary on the opposite — on the fleeting nature of the most important moments in a person’s life.
While it is not known if Anne Brontë herself experienced an epiphany of faith, the subject of this poem can be considered an odd one considering that Brontë’s life was one filled with tragedy. By the time she had passed away, before her thirtieth birthday, her mother, brother and three of her sisters had already died. Anne was raised largely by her aunt and father, and while she lived at a Clergy School for around a year, she was brought home immediately after her sisters’ deaths, where she remained for five years. She shared a room with her aunt, who, along with her father, is believed to have been of the Anglican faith. She too passed away before Anne’s own death in 1849.
Whether or not this poem is directly connected to Anne Brontë’s own life and belief is difficult to say. If it is, however, it certainly adds a more comforting touch to the many tales of tragedy, sickness, and isolation that much of the Brontë family seems to have had to deal with in their lives. And if Anne was indeed content over her own death, then it is a little easier to consider the saddening thought of her short life, and what other works of art and poetry she might have created had she been given a little more time. Anne famously underwent a crisis of faith during her life, and expressed in a letter to a friend of her sister that she did not fear death, but would be saddened to die at a young age without fulfilling her ambitions to do good. Ultimately, in the letter, as in this poem, she accepts God’s will, and her own impending death as well.