Mild the Mist Upon the Hill by Emily Brontë

Mild the Mist Upon the Hill is a title that almost couldn’t be more “poetic” to a potential reader. It uses alliteration to give it an almost catchy sound (try saying “mild the mist” five times fast), and it also uses natural imagery to instil an image of peace for the reader. This is one of the most interesting aspect of poems that are technically unnamed. “Mild the mist upon the hill” is actually the first line of the poem, acting in lieu of a title that Emily Brontë either never gave the piece, or of a title that has since been lost to history. Whatever the case, Mild the Mist Upon the Hill manages to be interesting from first glance, because it is a title that does a very good job of indicating the kind of verse that Brontë is using in this moving piece.


Mild the Mist Upon the Hill Analysis

Mild the mist upon the hill

Telling not of storms tomorrow;

No, the day has wept its fill,

Spent its store of silent sorrow.

As previously mentioned, the poem immediately attempts to create a peaceful and natural image for the viewer: a misty hilltop. This image works well to frame a poem with, because it’s an open concept without specific connotations that would tie the image irrevocably to an idea in the reader’s mind. The rest of the verse uses personification to create a metaphor for the daytime, suggesting that rainy days are sorrowful ones, because the “day has wept its fill.” The alliteration continues in the final line, where every word that’s longer than three letters begins with the same letter, which is a strong finish to the verse, considering that it begins in a similar fashion.

This kind of pattern allows Brontë to create a concept that is both open and meaningful, because while her intentions with the poem’s meaning are unclear, she does make heavy use of poetic devices, along with word choice such as “storms,” “wept,” and “sorrow.” This creates a very noticeable atmosphere for the piece that is unmistakable to the reader, even as they interpret the images and metaphors in their own unique way: the mild mist upon the hill means that the world is taking a break from being sorrowful.

O, I’m gone back to the days of youth,

I am a child once more,

And ‘neath my father’s sheltering roof

And near the old hall door

In the second verse, the poem introduces a character to serve as its narrator, and this is an uncommon place to introduce narration. Normally, a poem would not shift between third-person and first-person viewpoints at all, and if it does, it would typically not do so after only one verse. In hindsight, the first verse now reads more like the observations of an unhappy individual, reflecting or lamenting upon any one of many possible things. Their observations from the first verse cause them to imagine that they are a child again, inside their father’s house, described as being a “sheltering roof.” This is an interesting choice of words by Brontë — “house,” “home,” “protection,” and many other words could have had a similar effect. The use of the word “sheltering,” however, suggests a need on the speaker’s part, an innermost desire: the need to feel safe. Brontë’s choice of words is crucial to conveying this — beginning the verse with “O,” for instance, and even describing the “old” hall door adds a level of detail that suggests longing. Something about the simple view held by the speaker makes them feel both nostalgic and unsafe, though the poem continues to maintain its earlier theme of sorrow and of finding peace despite it.

I watch this cloudy evening fall

After a day of rain;

Blue mists, sweet mists of summer pall

The horizon’s mountain chain.

The third verse continues from where the second one left off, and sees the narrator continuing to imagine their childhood, watching, near the old hall door, the same sight they are seeing in the present day that’s caused this melancholy flashback. While the description of the natural world here alludes heavily to the same sight as described in the first verse, Brontë’s word choice, along with her choice of what to describe about the scene, sets this apart significantly from “mild the mist upon the hill.” For one thing. the mist is described as “blue” and “sweet,” giving the phenomenon a pleasant colour, as well as a positive description (respectively). The “pall” of the fog, normally a world with negative connotations, is prefixed with the word “summer” which gives the entire verse a pleasant, sunny kind of feeling. The additional description of the mountain chain and horizon adds to this significantly. The entire verse is being dedicated to describing the same idea as the one that introduced the poem through the eyes of a child.

No child, of course, would see a misty morning and think that the day has taken a break from weeping, and so it makes sense that the third verse focuses a great deal more on positive physical descriptions than emotional connotations and metaphoric meaning.

The damp stands on the long green grass

As thick as morning’s tears,

And dreamy scents of fragrance pass

That breathe of other years.

One of the most interesting aspects of the fourth verse is that the narrator is once again absent, and the reader instead experiences another third-person observation of the scene. This makes it very difficult to tell — is the speaker viewing the scene through their eyes in the present, or through their eyes in the past? That the dew is one again described as “morning’s tears” suggests the former, while the “dreamy scents” suggest the latter. This verse instead appears to combine the two perspectives, and imagine each individual strand of “long green grass” as giving off the scent of “other years.”

The abstract nature of this verse gives the poem a very open-ended conclusion, and the combined perspectives offered contribute to this. The first line of the verse describes the scene physically; the second line describes it from a more dreary perspective; the third line provides a more positive outlook; and the final line is of a very neutral tone. One potential meaning could be that each strand of grass represents a potential path for the future to take for the child; alternatively, it could simply be reinforcement of the idea of how much better life was when those years were still ahead.

The final verse effectively encompasses themes of sadness, of innocence in childhood, and of trying to break away from hardships, if only temporarily. The story being told here is more thematic than realistic, and it seems likely that this was Brontë’s intention, to describe a state of being more so than to tell a story, and her descriptions in Mild the Mist Upon the Hill are very well-conveyed and described in such a way as to enable the reader to take part in feeling this story alongside its author.

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