The Poets

August 01, 2012

Winter Cometh

Emily Bronte is among one of the very first female poets that I came to know, and a poet that I deeply respect (The Old Stoic, a delightful little poem about the desire to live in freedom, was the first poem of hers I read). 194 years ago on this day she was born, and so I thought I’d browse some of her works, and perhaps post one of them here … hence today’s post.

'Fall, Leaves, Fall'

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Of the Poem:

On a superficial level this poem speaks of the poet’s delight in the coming winter, where the nights are longer and snow and ‘drearier’ days shroud the landscape. It is within the midst of an autumn that the poet happily anticipates, like myself at times, the cold and snowy months to come: Every leaf speaks bliss to me / Fluttering from the autumn tree.

But one other possible meaning, a bleaker meaning, weaved tacitly through the poem, may exist.

Little is known about the last two years of Bronte's life, but what is known is that in October of 1848 her health began to falter drastically. Her brother, in the month to follow, would succumb to tuberculosis. It’s said that she was also afflicted by the illness, and that she refused all medical attention (for reasons I’m still not quite clear on) until finally,
on December 19th of the same year, she would succumb to her afflictions as well.

Often in the past people have used the seasons as symbols for the diverse stages of life- spring symbolizing birth, summer adolescence, autumn late adulthood, and winter old age and death. It’s obvious that the poem is referring to a desire for winter to come (interestingly, she doesn’t ever use the word ‘winter’ at all).

Is it possible that Bronte wrote this poem indicating a desire to move on from life to death? Is it possible that her illness was too much to endure, or that her brother’s decline and death affected her terribly, or that she wanted to be ‘released’ from the crippling onslaught of so cruel a disease?

It’s just a curious thought, and I’m by no means indicating that our poet was suicidal- far from it! My own guess is this … if this poem was composed during those obscure last years, then the likeliness that it was a cryptic work referring to a desire to die is at least there; if it was composed within the last few months of her life, I’m persuaded on the point. I don’t know … you tell me. 

Happy date of birth, dearest poet ... you're remembered.


Paige + Shauna said...

bronte's prose is so delicate
and wise.

Iacobe Kenna said...

Wuthering Heights (4/100)
The universe turns a mighty stranger
When one perishing takes with one a heart;
Or if all else would perish no danger
Would come those perishing refused to part.
Proud people for themselves sad sorrows sow
When for marriage against true love revolts
And vow against the substance of one's soul
As moonbeams vow themselves to lightning bolts.
Like foliage love that kind the season's pass
And true love's: the unchanging rocks beneath
Where cruelty with cruel fate will harass
As Cathy willed her choice away from Heath.
Now returned, three graves wed, to wuthered stone
Where lie, in time, their cursed sad sorrows sown.

As of April 9th, 2010