Eng 431


"Break, Break, Break"

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

Break, Break, Break Summary

The speaker is looking at the ocean and wishing he knew how to express his grief. He sees a fisherman's kid hanging out with his sister, and he hears a sailor singing, but they don't cheer him up – they just remind him of the "voice that is still," or the voice of his dead friend that he can't talk to anymore. The ocean waves keep breaking on the beach, and time keeps marching on, but the speaker can't go back in time to when his friend was still alive.

Lines 1-4

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

· The speaker addresses the ocean directly, telling the waves to "break, break, break" onto the stony shore.

· After telling the sea to keep doing its thing, the speaker regrets that he can't express his thoughts.

· He doesn't come out and say, "I can't utter/ the thoughts," he says that his "tongue" can't "utter" them. This makes him seem kind of passive – he's not speaking, his "tongue" is doing it.

· He's not really thinking, either – the thoughts "arise in" him almost spontaneously, without effort.

Lines 5-8

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

· The speaker thinks it's all well and good that the fisherman's kid is "shout[ing]" and "play[ing]" with his sister.

· Repeating the same sentence structure, the speaker says it's great for the sailor who is "sing[ing]" in his boat.

· The repetition makes it sound like maybe the speaker doesn't really think it's all well and good for these people to be cheerful. Is he jealous, perhaps, of their happiness? Or of their ability to communicate it, since he admitted back in Stanza 1 that his "tongue" can't "utter/ the thoughts that arise"?

Lines 9-12

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

· The fancy, "stately ships" pass by the speaker and head to their "haven," or protected port.

· The port is "under the hill," so there must be a big hill overlooking it.

· The speaker isn't distracted by the ships, though. Sure, he notices them, but his mind is elsewhere.

· He's just wishing he could "touch" the "vanish'd hand" and hear "the voice that is still." This is the first explanation of why the speaker is so sad. He's grieving for someone he loved who is now dead.

· He doesn't come out and describe the dead friend, though – he just lists a series of missing things: the "hand" and the "voice." The lost friend is described as a series of absent parts.

Lines 13-16

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

· The speaker repeats the first line again, telling the waves to "break, break, break" again.

· But it's repetition with a difference: in the first stanza, he tells the waves to break "on thy cold gray stones," and in the last stanza, he tells the waves to break "at the foot of thy crags."

· It's not exactly the same – time has gone by, and even the breaking of the waves has changed slightly. Maybe it's the tide coming in.

· The waves have changed slightly, and we see that time is passing, despite the tragedy that the speaker has suffered. Mournfully he says that the happy old days when his friend was alive will never return.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Tears, Idle Tears”

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!


The speaker sings of the baseless and inexplicable tears that rise in his heart and pour forth from his eyes when he looks out on the fields in autumn and thinks of the past.

This past, (“the days that are no more”) is described as fresh and strange. It is as fresh as the first beam of sunlight that sparkles on the sail of a boat bringing the dead back from the underworld, and it is sad as the last red beam of sunlight that shines on a boat that carries the dead down to this underworld.

The speaker then refers to the past as not “fresh,” but “sad” and strange. As such, it resembles the song of the birds on early summer mornings as it sounds to a dead person, who lies watching the “glimmering square” of sunlight as it appears through a square window.

In the final stanza, the speaker declares the past to be dear, sweet, deep, and wild. It is as dear as the memory of the kisses of one who is now dead, and it is as sweet as those kisses that we imagine ourselves bestowing on lovers who actually have loyalties to others. So, too, is the past as deep as “first love” and as wild as the regret that usually follows this experience. The speaker concludes that the past is a “Death in Life.”


This poem is written in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. It consists of four five-line stanzas, each of which closes with the words “the days that are no more.”


“Tears, Idle Tears” is part of a larger poem called “The Princess,” published in 1847. Tennyson wrote “The Princess” to discuss the relationship between the sexes and to provide an argument for women’s rights in higher education. However, the work as a whole does not present a single argument or tell a coherent story. Rather, like so much of Tennyson’s poetry, it evokes complex emotions and moods through a mastery of language. “Tears, Idle Tears,” a particularly evocative section, is one of several interludes of song in the midst of the poem.

In the opening stanza, the poet describes his tears as “idle,” suggesting that they are caused by no immediate, identifiable grief. However, his tears are simultaneously the product of a “divine despair,” suggesting that they do indeed have a source: they “rise in the heart” and stem from a profoundly deep and universal cause. This paradox is complicated by the difficulty of understanding the phrase “divine despair”: Is it God who is despairing, or is the despair itself divine? And how can despair be divine if Christian doctrine considers it a sin?

The speaker states that he cries these tears while “looking on the happy autumn-fields.” At first, it seems strange that looking at something happy would elicit tears, but the fact that these are fields of autumn suggests that they bear the memories of a spring and summer that have vanished, leaving the poet with nothing to look forward to except the dark and cold of winter. Tennyson explained that the idea for this poem came to him when he was at Tintern Abbey, not far from Hallam’s burial place. “Tintern Abbey” is also the title and subject of a famous poem by William Wordsworth. (See the “Tintern Abbey” section in the SparkNote on Wordsworth’s Poetry.) Wordsworth’s poem, too, reflects on the passage of time and the loss of the joys of youth. However, whereas Tennyson laments “the days that are no more” and describes the past as a “Death in Life,” Wordsworth explicitly states that although the past is no more, he has been compensated for its loss with “other gifts”:

That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense.

Thus, although both Wordsworth and Tennyson write poems set at Tintern Abbey about the passage of time, Wordsworth’s poem takes on a tone of contentment, whereas Tennyson’s languishes in a tone of lament.

“Tears, Idle Tears” is structured by a pattern of unusual adjectives used to describe the memory of the past. In the second stanza, these adjectives are a chiastic “fresh...sad...sad...fresh”; the memory of the birth of friendship is “fresh,” whereas the loss of these friends is “sad”; thus when the “days that are no more” are described as both “sad” and “fresh,” these words have been preemptively loaded with meaning and connotation: our sense of the “sad” and “fresh” past evokes these blossomed and withered friendships. This stanza’s image of the boat sailing to and from the underworld recalls Virgil’s image of the boatman Charon, who ferries the dead to Hades.

In the third stanza, the memory of the past is described as “sad...strange...sad...strange.” The “sad” adjective is introduced in the image of a man on his deathbed who is awake for his very last morning. However, “strangeness” enters in, too, for it is strange to the dying man that as his life is ending, a new day is beginning. To a person hearing the birds’ song and knowing he will never hear it again, the twittering will be imbued with an unprecedented significance—the dying man will hear certain melancholy tones for the first time, although, strangely and paradoxically, it is his last.

The final stanza contains a wave of adjectives that rush over us—now no longer confined within a neat chiasmic structure—as the poem reaches its last, climactic lament: “dear...sweet...deep...deep...wild.” The repetition of the word “deep” recalls the “depth of some divine despair,” which is the source of the tears in the first stanza. However, the speaker is also “wild with all regret” in thinking of the irreclaimable days gone by. The image of a “Death in Life” recalls the dead friends of the second stanza who are like submerged memories that rise to the surface only to sink down once again. This “Death in Life” also recalls the experience of dying in the midst of the rebirth of life in the morning, described in the third stanza. The poet’s climactic exclamation in the final line thus represents a culmination of the images developed in the previous stanzas.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend'


Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend

With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.

Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must

Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,

How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost

Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust

Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes

Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again

With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,

Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.

Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Summary and Analysis

'Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord’ is a poem that carries a sub-title in Latin which means ‘Righteous art Thou, O Lord, when I plead with Thee: yet let me talk with Thee of thy judgments: wherefore doth the ways of the wicked prosper?” The narrator pleaded with the Lord as to give him a good reason to end all the disappointments that he endeavored. If God was his enemy, or his friend, he wonders about the manner that God would be even worse than those who thwart his life. The sots and thralls of lust thrive more in the spare hours than the time the narrator had spent elsewhere.
Life upon one’s cause; now any one can see the banks and brakes; clumps of ferns; which are thicken with leaves. They are laced again with fretty Chervil; fretted with interlacing pattern and chervil is a member of the parsley family; which looks fresh when the wind shakes them. Birds build their own nest but their strain is like the eunuch of time; which does not breed nor produce any active or fruitful work. ‘Mine’ here refers to ‘roots’ indicating that the narrator wants God to send ‘my roots rain’ since every other creature is flourishing. It may however also mean ‘My God’.


"You are righteous, O LORD,

when I bring a case before you.

Yet I would speak with you about your justice:

Why does the way of the wicked prosper?

Why do all the faithless live at ease?"

Jeremiah 12:1



This is a sonnet written along classic Italian or Petrarchan lines.

          It can be broken into an octave and a sestet, although the actual break occurs in the middle of line 9.

          Each line has 10 syllables of iambic pentameters - i there are five feet (pentameters), and each foot contains a short syllable followed by a long one (iambic):

Thou art / in deed / just, Lord, / if I / con tend

With thee; / but, sir, / so what / I plead / is just.

Its rhyming scheme is that of a typical Petrarchan sonnet:

abba cddc / efefef


Hopkins was a Jesuit priest with a profoundly mystical nature.

          He believed in total obedience to the Word of God and to the will of his spiritual superiors

          He suppressed even his poetic ability until such time as the Jesuit Order itself asked him to write a eulogy to honor a group of nuns who were drowned when their ship sank in mid-Atlantic.

Nevertheless, despite following the rules of religion to the letter, Hopkins found himself in a state of deep spiritual depression, or what is sometimes known as the "dark night of the soul".

          Essentially, he felt that, despite all his fervent attempts to serve his Lord, God was not responding with any perceivable blessing

          on the other hand, those people whom he regarded as sinners appeared to lead very fruitful lives.


          OCTAVE (Note: Hopkins runs the octave into line 9)

Notice that this sonnet begins with a paraphrase of Jeremiah 12:1. (See above.) Thereafter the poet continues in a similar argumentative way, debating the same spiritual issues which confronted Jeremiah and which are also close to Hopkins' heart.

Line 1 to 2, & 5:

Hopkins speaks to God as a superior, but also a friend:

          "Lord" and "thee" (his God)

          "Sir" (in those days one would have called one's own father "sir")


          However, God is also someone with whom one can argue ("if I contend with thee").

Line 3 to 4:

The poet presents to his God the reason for his being troubled:

          sinners seem to prosper

          whereas he, who devotes his whole life to God, is disappointed in everything he does.

Line 5 to 6:

Although the poet sees God as his friend, he nevertheless believes that God is treating him worse that He would his enemy.

          Note the use of the antithesis:

"Wert thou my ENEMY, O thou my FRIEND"

Line 7 to 9:

The worst people the poet can imagine (drunkards and sexual sinners) seem to prosper even in their spare time whereas the poet, who has devoted his entire life to serving God, seems to suffer.

          SESTET (Lines 9 to 14):

In the second part of the sonnet, Hopkins looks to the success of nature which is always full of beauty.

          Birds build nests in which to breed, whereas the poet fails to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Line 12 - 13:

The eunuch was a castrated male, often left in charge of the king's harem of concubines.

          The poet sees himself as a eunuch to Time (the Grim Reaper).

          No matter how much he might try, he remains impotent, unable to breed anything worthwhile.

Note: the eunuch imagery is in a purely metaphorical sense.

          It does NOT refer to the poet as a celibate priest who is forbidden sex. After all, the priest has chosen to live a celibate life and he is certainly not a eunuch.

          The metaphor therefore refers to the poet as a spiritual eunuch, unable to enlighten people with his words of wisdom ("breed one work that wakes")

Line 14:

The final line is a heart-felt appeal (plea) to God to send his roots rain so that, like the plants in nature, he too may grow.


Melancholy? Despair? Deep spiritual depression?



CONTEND - argue

PLEAD - address the court on behalf of someone; make an appeal

ENDEAVOUR - strive to do something

THWART - frustrate, foil, prevent something from happening

SOTS - drunkards

THRALLS - bondage, something that ties one up

LUST - sensuous appetite, passionate enjoyment

SOTS AND THRALLS OF LUST - drunkards and sinful men

BANKS AND BRAKES - undergrowth

LEAVED - full of leaves

FRETTY - chequered, in a pattern that is crisscrossed

CHERVIL - a type of herb

FRETTY CHERVIL - herbs and plants which cause crisscrossed patterns, either with their stems and leaves or by their shadows

EUNUCH - castrated male or, in this case, an impotent person

Dover Beach

Mathew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Dover Beach Summary

"Dover Beach" opens with a quiet scene. A couple looks out on the moonlit water of the English Channel, and listens to the sound of the waves. Then, all of a sudden it zooms out. And we mean way out.

See, the sound of the waves makes the speaker think first of ancient Greece. Yep, Greece. Then he turns the sound of the surf into a metaphor for human history, and the gradual, steady loss of faith that his culture has experienced. The poem ends on a gorgeous, heartbreaking note, with the couple clinging to their love in a world of violence and fear and pain.

Line 1

The sea is calm tonight.

  • This first line gives us two simple, basic facts. It's nighttime, and the sea is calm. Can't you just picture it? Hey, that's all we need to start building a mental world.
  • As you'll see, "Dover Beach" will end up running back in time and all over the world, but that image of the ocean at night will always be front-and-center.
  • In addition to giving us the image that will anchor the poem, this line sets a very particular tone. The words are short and clear.
  • The line ends with a period, making it a complete, simple sentence. There's no activity, just stillness and simplicity. In a word, this line is calm, just like the ocean.

Line 2

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

  • Here we get a little more description of the setting of this poem. It's high ("full") tide, the moon is out, and it's beautiful ("fair").
  • We've pointed out how the first line was self-contained, a complete thought in itself. In this line, the end of the line isn't the end of the sentence, and the phrase "the moon lies fair" isn't complete? It makes the reader want to know where the moon lies fair, or how. To find out, you have to continue to the next line. That poetic technique, where a sentence is broken up across more than one line, is called enjambment.
  • We also want to point out that little break in the middle of the line (marked by the comma). The line takes a pause here, between two complete phrases. That fancy little trick is called a caesura, and it divides the line into two parts.

Line 3

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

  • That moon that's lingering from the last line? Well, it turns out that it "lies fair / Upon the straits." That just means that the moonlight is shining on a narrow body of water ("the straits"). The speaker tells us that he can see across the strait to the coast of France.
  • If we put this together with the title "Dover Beach," we get a pretty clear idea of where the speaker is. He's on the coast of England, looking out at the English Channel, which separates England from France. Dover is a town (you might have heard of its famous white cliffs) right at the narrowest point in the channel. The French town of Calais is just a little over twenty miles away, which is why he can see the light there.
  • Notice the enjambment in this line, too. Arnold keeps us rolling from line to line here, building up momentum in the beginning of the poem.

Lines 4-5

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

  • Suddenly the light that he saw shines out and then disappears (with Arnold's much prettier alliteration, it "Gleams and is gone").
  • When the light in France disappears, the speaker looks back at his own coast. Here he sees the famous white cliffs of Dover, which are shining in the moonlight out in bay. The bay, he reminds us, is "tranquil." This picks up the image of calm water from line 1.
  • And once again we've got a the break in line 4. See how the line pauses at the semicolon, and then the speaker turns to a new thought? Yep, that's another caesura.

Line 6

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

  • Here we get a little more information about what's happening in the world of the poem. We learn that the speaker is indoors (in a room with a window).
  • We also find out that he's talking to someone who must be in the room with him—that's his audience.. We don't learn much about that person yet, but our speaker wants him or her to come to window to smell the "sweet" air.
  • The tone of the poem is still really calm. Adjectives like "tranquil" and "sweet" establish a relaxing, comforting mood here at the beginning of things.

Lines 7-8

Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,

  • Now, all of a sudden, we've got a little shift on our hands. As we look out with the speaker and his companion, he says "Only." (Here that means something like "But.")
  • Only what? What's the matter with this scene? Arnold is just beginning to build our expectation.
  • The speaker draws our attention to the edge of the water, and the surf ("the long line of spray"). Instead of looking at the beautiful landscape as a whole, we're looking at the specific point where the sea meets the land.
  • And check out that vivid image of the "moon-blanched land." Blanched means "whitened" —we might say "bleached." You know how bright moonlight can make the whole world look white? Well, that's what our speaker is talking about.

Line 9

Listen! you hear the grating roar

  • Before, we were imagining what this scene looked like. Now the speaker tells his companion (and us) to change the frame, to use one of our other senses.
  • Suddenly we're going to "Listen!" (that exclamation point is mean to wake us up) to the sound of the water.
  • Turns out that sound isn't "calm" or "tranquil" like the moonlight on the water. The speaker describes it as a "grating roar."
  • The harshness of the word "grating" might be a little surprising, since there's nothing relaxing about a grating sound. It seems to Shmoop that the atmosphere of this poem is changing. Let's keep a weather eye out for more shifts in the future.

Lines 10-11

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,

  • That "grating" sound from line? That comes from the sound of pebbles. Those little rocks are being pulled out by the waves as they go out, and then thrown back up on the beach ("strand" is another word for beach or shore) when the waves come back in.
  • Maybe you've heard that sound before, like a rhythmic rumble, a giant breathing. The speaker really focuses in on the sound of the waves. He wants us to really feel their inevitable, steady force. Because if one thing's fore sure, it's that waves will continued to crash on beaches all the world over.

Lines 12-13

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

  • The grating sound of the pebbles starts, and then stops, and then starts again. The speaker has a fancy way of describing this rhythm of the ocean. He calls it a "tremulous cadence slow."
  • Let's break that one down, huh? "Tremulous" means shaky or trembling. We think that comes from the fact that this one big sound is made up of many little sounds of rolling pebbles. "Cadence" refers to the rhythm of that repeated sound. That's a significant word to use in a poem of all things, where rhythm is so crucial to the reading experience. The speaker hears a slow rhythm in the sound of the waves, and it mingles in with the rhythm of his poem.
  • And just what is the rhythm of this poem? Well, Arnold plays around with that a little. The basic meter for the poem is iambic, which has just the same kind of rolling rhythm as those waves.
  • Line 12 is actually a great example of that: Begin, and cease, and then again begin. See? Perfect iambic pentameter.
  • That's not the case everywhere though; he switches things up a fair amount. For more on that, see our "Form and Meter" section.

Line 14

The eternal note of sadness in.

  • Now the rubber really hits the road in this poem. We started out calm and tranquil, but the first stanza ends on a much darker note, with the introduction of a "note of sadness."
  • We think the word "note" is pretty key here. It picks up on the word "cadence" up above, and makes us think that the sound of the world is something like music.
  • This isn't just a temporary sadness, either. It's "eternal." Our speaker clearly thinks that the music of the world has an endless sadness built into it.

Lines 15-16

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

  • Now the sound of the pebbles in the waves turns into a kind of time machine, and takes the speaker (and us) on a mental journey back to ancient Greece.
  • He imagines the famous playwright Sophocles heard the same sound as he stood next to the Aegean Sea (that's the part of the Mediterranean that separates Greece from Turkey).
  • This little allusion to the past keys us into Arnold's interest in the past, and especially classical Greece and Rome. It also creates a connection between the great poetic mind of Sophocles and our speaker. They are linked, across the centuries, by the act of listening to the sea and thinking about humanity.

Lines 17-18

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we

  • Sophocles was one of the great Greek authors of tragic plays—you know, those bummer dramas where everyone ends up dead or miserable? So it's probably not that surprising that the ocean makes him think of "the turbid ebb and flow of human misery." "Turbid" means "cloudy, stirred up, muddy and murky" and it's often used to refer to water.
  • So, Sophocles is imagining an analogy between human unhappiness and cloudy water moving in and out ("the ebb and flow").
  • Also, have you been keeping an eye on how much enjambmentthis poem has? This particular stanza (lines 15-20) is just one long sentence broken up over five lines. This makes the connection between the distant past and the present seem almost seamless.
  • See how he slips that "we" in at the end of line 18? He's zooming us back to the present, without even ending the sentence. He could easily have stopped and started the next line back in the present (although breaking it up the way he does helps with the iambic meter). Instead, he just zips back, without stopping, forcing us to keep moving at his pace.

Lines 18-19

Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

  • Now we're fully back in the poem's present, back on the shore of the English Channel. Here he calls the Channel "this distant northern sea." By distant he just means far away from Sophocles and the Aegean.
  • Just like Sophocles, "we" find a thought in the sound of the waves. Who's this "we," by the way? Line 17 is the first time the speaker has referred to we. Maybe he just means him and his companion (whom he invited to the window in line 6).
  • We've got a hunch he means something bigger, though. If it was just he and his companion, he wouldn't need to talk about it.
  • We think he's including a lot of people in his "we"—his readers, and maybe all of the people living in his time and place. It's a way of both drawing us in and making his observations seem universal.

Lines 21-22

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore

  • Ooh, now we're really getting deep. Suddenly the sea grows from being just a thing you look at or listen to, to a full-blown metaphor. Here the "Sea of Faith" represents the "ocean" of religious belief in the world—all of our faith put together. Notice that Arnold capitalizes this term and puts it all by itself at the top of the stanza, so we're sure to notice that it's super-important.
  • There was a time, the speaker says, when that "Sea of Faith" was at high tide "full" just like the English Channel is right now.
  • He's really driving this whole ocean-as-metaphor thing hard.
  • But what's he referring to? Perhaps an earlier time, when religion was more important in people's lives?

Line 23

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.

  • When that ocean of faith was at its height, it was like a "bright girdle" (that's like a fancy belt) rolled up ("furled") around the world. See what he did there? He just used a simile to compare his already-metaphorical ocean to a beautiful belt.
  • This is kind of a tricky image—it's a little hard to tell how an ocean can be furled around the world, or why exactly a girdle would have folds. We think the whole idea is meant to be a little ornate and complex, because what the speaker is describing, (the high tide of the sea of faith) is so mysterious and beautiful.
  • For a moment, in this line, we're back in safe territory, away from human misery and grating waves.

Lines 24-25

But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

  • Sadly, in this moment, the speaker thinks the sea of faith is a long way from high tide. It's ebbing (getting lower) just like the ocean does.
  • The only sound he hears now is the roar of faith pulling away. We think "melancholy, long withdrawing roar" has a totally sad, desolate feeling—don't you? The world's loss of faith makes our speaker truly miserable.

Lines 26-27

Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

  • Here he keeps up the simile he started at the beginning of the stanza, comparing all the faith on earth to an ocean that's steadily pulling away.
  • Faith is "retreating" from the world. It ebbs to "the breath of the night wind." That's another great image of a powerful, rhythmic force in nature, just like the "cadence" of the pebbles in the waves in line 13.
  • Check out how dark the language of this poem has turned all of a sudden. There's a scary sense of size in those "vast edges" and real misery in the word "drear." We've come a long way from the calm moonlit night that started out this poem.

Line 28

And naked shingles of the world.

  • First, we should point out that in this case "shingles" refers to the loose stones on the seashore (not something that goes on a roof).
  • The idea of the world being covered in "naked shingles" like a wet, desolate beach is so spine-tinglingly bleak. It's such a hopeless image. As faith pulls away, it leaves nothing behind but dreary desolation.
  • Well, that's uplifting.

Lines 29-30

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems

  • At the opening of the last stanza, we're back where were at the beginning of the poem, in the room at the edge of the Channel.
  • The speaker finally lets us know who's he's talking to: his "love."
  • We spent the whole last stanza hearing about the fate of the world, and the metaphorical ocean of faith. So this feels like a pretty big shift. Suddenly the speaker's tone is personal, intimate, even desperate, as if he was clinging to his love to escape the terrifying things he's just been describing.
  • The idea of lovers being "true" to each other also picks up on the image of lost faith from up above. Even if the world has lost its faith, maybe they, in their small way, can hold on to some of it.
  • But note the enjambment between lines 29 and 30. First, he says to his love, "let us be true." That could be a more general statement about personal integrity. But then, squish it up with line 30, and you realize that he wants them to be true to one another, which is a much smaller, more intimate idea.
  • Maybe, just maybe, the idea of being true in the modern world is just too big to handle. So in the end, all we can do is be true to one another. Let's see if that plays out in the final lines of the poem.

Lines 31-32

To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,

  • There's been a contrast running through this whole poem. On the one hand, there's the pretty view of the moonlit water that opens the poem. So in the present, in the world the speaker and his lover can see before them, things seem pretty much okay.
  • This happy world is "various" (that just means full of variety) and of course beautiful and new. We think there might be a little allusion to the story of Adam and Eve, the couple alone together with a beautiful new world before them. Do you agree?
  • There's also a hint of trouble in the way the speaker calls this "a land of dreams." On the one hand, that might mean that it's wonderful, but it might also suggest that this beautiful world is somehow unreal, which makes it all the more precarious.

Lines 33-34

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

  • Now we see the truth, (or at least as the speaker sees it). It's not that the world is part good and part bad. It's that the pretty part, which you can see, the world of calm night and moonlight and peaceful beauty is an illusion. It's the world he hears in the roaring of the surf that is real. And it's awful.
  • The reality of the world is nothing but grim chaos. All of the things that should make the world wonderful are gone. There is no joy, love, light, certitude (that means "certainty" or security) or "help for pain."
  • The speaker has clearly lost that faith he was talking about in the third stanza (lines 21-28). One thing faith can do for you is allow you to believe in order and goodness in the world even when all you see is ugliness and pain. Our speaker has lost that ability to believe in order, and sees only the nightmare.
  • Maybe this is just Shmoop, but we think that even though these lines are grim and sad, they are also kind of beautiful. There's something so sharp, so simple, so raw in the way the speaker cuts away all those wonderful things, one by one. We're gearing up for one heck of an ending, Shmoopers.

Line 35

And we are here as on a darkling plain

  • Arnold brings the whole thing to a crashing finish here, with a famous simile. Yep, this is one for the ages.
  • He begins the simile in this line, comparing the faithless ugliness of the world to being in a flat and lightless place ("a darkling plain"). That's just one gloomier image in what is shaping up to be a pretty dark ending to this poem.

Line 36-37

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

  • The poem slams shut on us with the end of this final simile that the speaker began in line 35.
  • The speaker and his love are not just stuck in the dark, but they are "swept" by noise and confusion. People are struggling, running away (in "flight") and sounding alarms.
  • The world is not merely a dark and comfortless place. It's a battlefield. But on this battlefield, the fighters can't see each other.
  • They are fighting at night, and presumably killing their friends as well as their enemies. There's no marching, no even lines, no fancy hats and polished buttons. Just misery, pain, terror and confusion—a clash.
  • We've come a long way from the scene of peaceful beauty that opened this poem. The mask has been ripped off the world, and "Dover Beach" has shown us the chaos and ugliness within.

My Last Duchess

THAT’S my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, "Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much," or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart – how shall I say? – too soon made glad.
Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.

My Last Duchess Summary

Lines 1-2

THAT’S my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.

  • The speaker points out a lifelike portrait of his "last Duchess" that’s painted on the wall.
  • This tells us that the speaker is a Duke, that his wife is dead, and that someone is listening to him describe his late wife’s portrait, possibly in his private art gallery.
  • It also makes us wonder what makes her his "last" Duchess – for more thoughts on that phrase, check out our comments in the "What’s Up With the Title?" section.

Lines 2-4

I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

  • The Duke tells his mysterious listener that the painting of the Duchess is impressively accurate.
  • The painter, Frà (or "Friar") Pandolf, worked hard to achieve a realistic effect.
  • Notice that the Duke’s comment "there she stands" suggests that this is a full-length portrait of the Duchess showing her entire body, not just a close-up of her face.

Line 5

Will’t please you sit and look at her?

  • The Duke asks his listener politely to sit down and examine the painting.
  • But the politeness is somewhat fake, and the question seems more like a command. Could the listener refuse to sit down and look and listen? We don’t think so.

Lines 5-13

I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus.

  • The Duke explains to the listener why he brought up the painter, Frà Pandolf.
  • He says that he mentioned Pandolf on purpose, or "by design" (6) because strangers never examine the Duchess's portrait without looking like they want to ask the Duke how the painter put so much "depth and passion" (8) into the expression on the Duchess's face, or "countenance" (7).
  • They don’t actually ask, because they don’t dare, but the Duke thinks he can tell that they want to.
  • Parenthetically, the Duke mentions that he’s always the one there to answer this question because nobody else is allowed to draw back the curtain that hangs over the portrait.
  • Only the Duke is allowed to look at it or show it to anyone else. This is clearly his private gallery, and we’re a little afraid of what might happen to someone who broke the rules there.

Lines 13-15

Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek:

Addressing his still-unknown listener as "sir," the Duke goes into more detail about the expression on the Duchess's face in the painting.

  • He describes her cheek as having a "spot / Of joy" (14-15) in it, perhaps a slight blush of pleasure.
  • It wasn’t just "her husband’s presence" (14) that made her blush in this way, although the Duke seems to believe that it should have been the only thing that would.
  • The Duke doesn’t like the idea that anyone else might compliment his wife or do something sweet that would make her blush.

Lines 15-21

Frà Pandolf chanced to say, "Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much," or "Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy.

  • The Duke imagines some of the ways that Frà Pandolf might have caused the Duchess to get that "spot of joy" in her face.
  • He might have told her that her "mantle" (her shawl) covered her wrist too much, which is the Renaissance equivalent of saying, "man, that skirt’s way too long – maybe you should hike it up a little."
  • Or he might have complimented her on the becoming way that she flushes, telling her that "paint / Must never hope to reproduce" (17-18) the beautiful effect of her skin and coloring.
  • The Duke thinks the Duchess would have thought that comments like this, the normal flirtatious "courtesy" (20) that noblemen would pay to noblewomen, were "cause enough" (20) to blush.
  • Strangely, the Duke seems to believe that blushing in response to someone like Frà Pandolf was a decision, not an involuntary physical reaction. Notice that the Duke also seems to infuse his comments with a judgmental tone.

Lines 21-24

She had
A heart – how shall I say? – too soon made glad.
Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.

  • The Duke describes the Duchess as "too soon made glad" (22) and "too easily impressed" (23). This is his main problem with her: too many things make her happy.
  • Another way of looking at it is that she’s not serious enough. She doesn’t save her "spot of joy" for him alone. She’s not the discriminating snob that he wants her to be.
  • She likes everything she sees, and she sees everything.

"My Last Duchess"


Line 1] First published in Dramatic Lyrics, 1842; given its present title in 1849. Fra Pandolf (line 3) is an artist of Browning's own invention. Title: emphasizing the word Last as the ending of the poem implies; the Duke, identified as "Ferrara" in the poem's speech prefix, is negotiating for his next Duchess. In 1842 the title was "Italy and France. Ferrara: most likely, Browning intended Alfonso II (1533-1598), fifth duke of Ferrara, in northern Italy, from 1559 to 1597, and the last member of the Este family. He married his first wife, 14-year-old Lucrezia, a daughter of the Cosimo I de' Medici, in 1558 and three days later left her for a two-year period. She died, 17 years old, in what some thought suspicious circumstances. Alfonso contrived to meet his second to-be spouse, Barbara of Austria, in Innsbruck in July 1565. Nikolaus Mardruz, who took orders from Ferdinand II, count of Tyrol, led Barbara's entourage then.

Line 3] Frà Pandolf: a painter not recorded in history, a member of religious orders and so, on the surface of things, unlikely to have seduced the Duchess. No known painting has been linked to Browning's poem.

Line 13] you: presumably Browning had in mind Nikolaus Mardruz.

Line 16] mantle: loose cloak without sleeves.

Line 22] When questioned, "Was she in fact shallow and easily and equally well pleased with any favor or did the Duke so describe her as a supercilious cover to real and well justified jealousy?" Browning answered: "As an excuse -- mainly to himself -- for taking revenge on one who had unwittingly wounded his absurdly pretentious vanity, by failing to recognize his superiority in even the most trifling matters"


We always drop unprepared into a Browning dramatic monologue, into several lives about which we know nothing. Soliloquies or speeches in a play have a context that orients the audience. Browning's readers have only a title and, in "My Last Duchess," a speech prefix, "Ferrara." Thanks to Louis S. Friedland, a critic who published an article on "My Last Duchess" in 1936, we know something about how young Browning found the story. Fascinated with the Renaissance period, he visited Italy in 1838 and clearly had done considerable reading about its history. He must have come across a biography of Alfonso II (1533-1598), fifth duke of Ferrara, who married Lucrezia, the 14-year-old daughter of the upstart merchant princes, the Medici, in 1558. Three days after the wedding, Alfonso left her -- for two years. She died barely 17 years old, and people talked, and four years later in Innsbruck, Alfonso began negotiating for a new wife with a servant of the then count of Tyrol, one Nikolaus Mardruz. The poem's duke of Ferrara, his last duchess, the "Count" with whose servant (Mardruz) Ferrara is here discussing re-marriage and a dowry, and the new "fair daughter" are historical, but the interpretation of what actually took place among them is Browning's own. He first published the poem in 1842, four years after his visit to Italy. The painter Frà Pandolf and the sculptor Claus of Innsbruck are fictitious, as far as we know, but Browning must have meant his readers to associate the poem with these shadowy historical figures because he changed the title in 1849, from "Italy and France." to ... what we see today.

The title evidently refers to a wall painting that Ferrara reveals to someone yet unidentified in the first fourteen words of the poem. "That's my last Duchess painted on the wall," he says. However a reader utters this line, it sounds odd. Stress "That's" and Ferrara reduces a woman, once his spouse, to something he casually points out, a thing on a wall. Emphasize "my" and Ferrara reveals his sense of owning her. Pause over "last" and we might infer that duchesses, to him, come in sequence, like collectibles that, if necessary, having become obsolescent, are to be replaced. If "Duchess" gets the stress, he implies -- or maybe we infer -- that he acquires, not just works of art, but persons; and that Duchesses are no different from paintings. The line suggests self-satisfaction. Finding ourselves being given a tour of a grand home for the first time, by the owner himself, and being told, "That's my last wife painted on the wall," how would we react? We might think, "How odd he didn't say her name. I wonder what happened ...", or at least we might wonder until he finished his sentence with "Looking as if she were alive." This clause, also sounding peculiar, tells us two things. The Duchess looks out at us, the viewers, directly from the painting; and her depiction there is life-like, that is, we might be looking at a living person rather than a work of art. Yet wouldn't Ferrara say "life-like" or "true to life," if that was simply what he meant? His choice of words may suggest that, while she, the Duchess herself (rather than her image in the painting), looks alive, she may be dead; and the phrase "last Duchess" echoes in our working memory. Do we know for sure? Does "she" mean the Duchess or her painting?

Ferrara continues, cheerfully, describing the painting, not the Duchess (so possibly we are being silly): "I call / That piece a wonder, now." The phrase "That piece" must mean "that portrait," surely, though there is something intangibly common, almost vulgar, in his expression. That sense of "piece," as "portrait," is archaic now and may have been so when Browning wrote the poem. This context, a man speaking of pictures of women, connotes something quite different, what the term has meant for centuries, and still means now, "Applied to a woman or girl. In recent use, mostly depreciatory, of a woman or girl regarded as a sexual object". Is "That piece" a portrait? Ferrara's next remark keeps us off-balance. "Frà Pandolf's hands / Worked busily a day, and there she stands." Obviously the "piece" is something hand-made, a painting, a wondrous good one, not a person, not someone contemptible -- a relief; and yet Ferrara continues, "there she stands." The painting cannot stand because it is on the wall. Is he speaking about the woman? Ferrara then invites his listener, standing beside him, to sit down "and look at her." As readers, Ferrara also speaks to us, as if we too were there, because Browning, who as a lyric poet would address us directly, has disappeared behind this character. We may want to sit down. Mid-way through line 5, Ferrara has not yet done with us. We have to look at the Duchess, through his words, being just as silent as the "you" to whom Ferrara refers. We have to "read" (6) her face.

As "Strangers" (7), knowing nothing about this place and its people, we must be told (and Ferrara will explain) why he named, "by design," the painter, giving him the honorific, "Frà" ('brother'), due a member of religious orders and a celibate man. The Duchess's look -- her "pictured countenance,/ The depth and passion of its earnest glance", and that "glance" (again) -- causes ignorant observers, if they dare (11), to look as if they would ask Ferrara, and only Ferrara, because (as he tells us pointedly) the portrait is curtained off, and only he can pull back the curtain to reveal it, just what elicited that "passion" in her. His listener does not ask this question, though he may look as if he would like to ask. He just sits where he is told to sit and hears what others, of his type, would sometimes want to ask (but in fact seldom do ask) and, more, hears what Ferrara would say in answer to that rare question. Was she looking at a lover, at sometime who desired her? That is one question her look suggests, but of course that is impossible, for Frà Pandolf, a celibate religious, could never bring forth that "passion." No, her look did not rise, Ferrara implies, from sexual passion, but from a more general emotion. "Sir, 't was not / Her husband's presence only, called that spot / Of joy into the Duchess' cheek." If "presence" meant just "the state of being in the same place", it would be redundant here. Ferrara uses the term to allude to the importance of his decision to be with her, the stateliness and majesty that a duke confers, as a gift, on anyone by just turning up; and add to that, possibly, the way he, as her sexual partner, ought to arouse her, nature being what it is, to color in this way.

Yet any "courtesy," Ferrara asserts, any court compliment owing to the Duchess merely by virtue of her position, aroused that look, that "spot of joy," that "blush" (31). Frà Pandolf, for example, might have observed that the Duchess should shift her mantle up her arm somewhat to show more of her wrist, its skin being attractive; or he might have complained that his art was not up to capturing the "faint / Half-flush that dies along" her throat. If it died in the throat, where did it live? Frà Pandolf alludes here to the "spot of joy," spreading downwards from her cheeks (15) as he was painting her. Her embarrassed, but not at all displeased, awareness that someone likes her reveals itself in a blush, a colouring in a small patch ("a spot") as blood flows to the face. That, Ferrara says, reveals a "joy" felt by the Duchess in herself, at being herself, at being looked at approvingly, no matter who -- whether a celibate painter, or her husband the duke -- did the looking.

The Cry of the Children


"Pheu pheu, ti prosderkesthe m ommasin, tekna;"
[[Alas, alas, why do you gaze at me with your eyes, my children.]]—Medea.

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,

      Ere the sorrow comes with years ?

They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, —

      And that cannot stop their tears.

The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ;

   The young birds are chirping in the nest ;

The young fawns are playing with the shadows ;

   The young flowers are blowing toward the west—

But the young, young children, O my brothers,

      They are weeping bitterly !

They are weeping in the playtime of the others,

      In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,

      Why their tears are falling so ?

The old man may weep for his to-morrow

      Which is lost in Long Ago —

The old tree is leafless in the forest —

   The old year is ending in the frost —

The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest —

   The old hope is hardest to be lost :

But the young, young children, O my brothers,

      Do you ask them why they stand

Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,

      In our happy Fatherland ?

Summary of The Cry of the Children by

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The summary of The Cry of the Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is an instance of a problematic piece that speaks volumes about the down trodden state of child workers. As a matter of fact, the idea of The Cry of the Children had its roots when Elizabeth Barrett Browning heard the cries of children who were made to work in mines and factories under gruesome circumstances.

The singular style used in the poem is a trademark of Elizabeth Barrett Browning which had been effective to portray and pen picture the thoughts and disillusionment-concurring themes that she had been dealing with in her political poems. The poem starts with the speaker asking the children to go and play like what is expected of a child. Surprisingly, they refuse. The poet uses irony here to project the idea of disillusionment which occurs as a recurring motif in the poem. It also forms one of the central ideas of The Cry of the Children and it continues to play and ploy with the minds of the readers especially when discussing issues like that of religion or a fall out.

The theme of The Cry of the Children is also an arousing concern about child labor and hence lingers with the idea whether adults would have liked to see themselves in a similar situation. Having said that, the poem revolves around children who form the idea of The Cry of the Children. The issues receives a flare touch as Elizabeth Barrett Browning touches upon religion as well and couples the same thus running an undercurrent of emotions that is conveyed through the theme of The Cry of the Children.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning reserves her sentiment for the children who are made to work in factories and hence had to part away with their childhood and they are deprived of all that things that other children can do. “Let them feel that his cold metallic motion | Is not all the life God fashions or reveals” (lines 93-94). In other words, she strikes a sad chord with her words trying to convey that people shouldn’t have any disillusionment towards religion. The poem goes on to dug deep as it explores past the general issue of child labor and draws up a sharp contrast with the working conditions of the adult and adverse situations that they have to face day after day.
The summary of The Cry of the Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning speaks of times when government investigations to expose the exploit of the children employed in factories and mines were high in the society. The poem too carries on the theme of disillusionment which has formed the essence of Browning’s earlier works. Line 37 brings out the real feel of discontent rooted deep in the poem (“‘True,’ say the children, “it may happen that we die before our time ;”). She speaks of the untimely death of the children as because they are forced to work from a very tender age. Then there is a mentioning of “Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen like a snowball, in the rime. We looked into the pit prepared to take her: was no room for any work in the close clay!” –the very line expresses the agony of the children who are exposed to hazardous work at an age when they should be running in the fields and screaming their hearts out in sheer joy. Even after their death, they are deprived of a proper burial. There are no proper medications when they fall sick and are left to the mercy of time to die and fade away from this wonderful planet. The poetess stresses on the thought that no matter what the ill or the odds are, children are little tender roots that demand attention and care to grow. Parents should never let their children work in the factories or mines even if they are passing through a shad time. The poem also employs a negative imagery that packs in positive images too ( “With your ear down, little Alice never cries; could we see her face, be sure we should not know her, for the smile has time for growing in her eyes,” ). In other words, the death of Alice is a constant remembrance to the pitiful conditions of the mines and factories where these children work and hence death is a good riddance and a pathway to escape from the shackles of slavery (“‘and merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in the shroud by the kirk-chime. it is good when it happens,’ say the children, That we die before our time.”).
The image of dead Alice is a significant turn in the course of the poem as because her spirit shall always be alive. (“Lulled and stilled in the shroud by the kirk-chime,”) The word “Shroud” rings bell depicted as church or of God that is there to protect children and embrace them when they live the boundaries of Earth. These children who die a silent and a tragic death are blessed souls as death is way better than their living conditions. In fact, earth is more like a sanctuary to these little souls who can now rest in peace.


Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

Up-Hill Summary

We've got two speakers in this poem: one asking questions, the other answering. Right from the start we get the feeling these questions have something to do with a trip. Our first batch has to do with a road—Is it uphill? How long will it take to travel? Both of these the second speaker answers: Yes, it's uphill and cancel your dinner reservations because this climb will take all day long. Then we move on to questions about what to do when it starts getting dark. According to our second speaker, there's an inn that you seriously cannot miss, but our first speaker seems to be nervous that, even with the inn, he or she will find some way to mess things up. He asks what kind of people he'll meet along the way, if any, and what to do when he gets to the inn (just in case you need a secret password or something). Once again, Speaker #2 has all the answers. Having established the presence of an inn at the end of this uphill climb, Speaker #1 then starts asking what the inn is like: Will there be beds? Is it comfortable? The poem ends with the second speaker's promise that there will be "beds for all who come" (although in practice, reservations are recommended).

Lines 1-2

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.

  • Our poem starts off with a question about a road: does the path go up-hill the whole way
  • This seems like a pretty straightforward question, so it makes sense that in line 2, we get an equally straightforward answer: why yes, it does.
  • In spite of the straight answer in line 2, however, we are far from having all the answers: Who is speaking? Where are they going? Where did they start out? What's the deal with this windy, uphill path?
  • The whole question-answer format we see in the first two lines is super-interesting because it implies that there are two different voices present in the poem. We're going to refer to them as Speaker #1 (the voice asking the questions) and Speaker #2 (the voice answering them), but think about whether or not two voices has to equal two separate people.

Lines 3-4

Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

  • Line 3 opens with another question, and line 4 gives another answer.
  • The wording in line 3 is a little awkward—what does it mean for something to take "the whole long day" as opposed to just "the day"?
  • After taking a look at the answer provided in line 4, our best guess is that a journey that takes "the day" is kind of like an afternoon outing—driving a couple towns over to see a cool art exhibit or something—whereas a journey that takes "the whole long day" is more like a sunrise-to-sunset, driving from Florida to Rhode Island kind of experience.
  • Once again, for every question Speaker #2 answers, several more are raised. Just how long is this journey? Are we seeing questions about one day of what could be weeks, months, or years of travel? Will Speaker #2 get a whole new set of questions tomorrow? Or is the journey mentioned in the poem the whole shebang? Plus, we still don't know anything about the relationship between the two speakers, where Speaker #1 is going, or how Speaker #2 knows how to get there. So many questions…
  • Line 4 also marks the end of the first quatrain, or four-line stanza, of the poem, so it's the perfect time to see what we've learned so far about the rhyme, tone, format, and meter of the poem.
  • The rhyme scheme in the first four lines is pretty easy; it's ABAB which means that both of Speaker #1's lines rhyme with each other, as do Speaker #2's.

Lines 5-6

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.

  • We're officially into the second quatrain, and the conversation has progressed. Now Speaker #1 is asking about what to do once he (we're just assuming it's a he—we really have no clue at this point) gets to his final destination. Like all weary travelers, his main concern is having somewhere to sleep.
  • Speaker #2 says not to worry: there will be a roof over his head, but doesn't give many details other than that.
  • The fact that Speaker #1 asked if there was a place to rest "for the night" implies that his journey will continue into the next day—whatever is at the end of the uphill path mentioned in the first stanza is only a temporary destination.
  • Before we move on, take another look at Speaker #2's answer to this question. It's pretty vague, and Shmoop thinks that's, well… weird. We mean, seeing as Speaker #1 seems to be dealing with a 12-hour hike up a windy mountain path in the dark, you'd think that Speaker #2 might want to be a little more specific than "a roof," ya know? Let's hope some more details are in the lines to come.
  • Also, notice here how Speaker #2's response is a little bit longer here than either response in quatrain 1. It's too early to fully assess the meaning of that change, but keep that—and other deviations from the general 10-syllable line, 6-syllable line pattern—in mind.

Lines 7-8

May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

  • In these lines, Speaker #1 expresses a fairly legitimate concern. If the journey is going to take "the whole long day" as we learned back in line 3, what if it gets dark before he reaches his destination? Most importantly, what if it's so dark that he can't find this "roof" that was mentioned in line 5?
  • Speaker #2 insists, however, that the roofwhich we've now learned belongs to an inncannot be missed.
  • We get an answer to our roof question from lines 5 and 6, but it wasn't just because Speaker #1 pushed for the juicy deets.
  • Have you noticed yet how, no matter how vague of an answer Speaker #2 gives to a question, Speaker #1 always takes him at his word? Everything that Speaker #2 says is implicitly assumed to be correct and has yet to be questioned, in spite of the fact that there are a lot of questions that could (and perhaps should) be resolved. How does that unilateral trust influence your opinion about the person (or people) speaking in the poem?
  • What is it about the inn, for example, that makes it so hard to miss? Does it just appear in the middle of the road? Does it have a crazy sign? Is it the size of a Las Vegas casino? The logical answer seems to be that it's lit up in some way, but we don't actually have any confirmation of that. We'll keep reading though (you should, too).
  • Speaking of light, this pair of lines digs into an interesting theme of the poem—that of night and day, and darkness and light.
  • This dichotomy, or contrast between two opposing things, is central to the symbolism in the poem, so stay tuned as the imagery continues to develop.
  • The lines further suggest that, no matter how fast he goes, this place is so far away and hard to reach that Speaker #1 is probably not going to get there before sunset. And traveling in the dark is a whole different ballgame (that's, you know, way less fun).

Lines 9-10

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.

  • In line 9, Speaker #1 is asking whether he will run into anyone else on this journey. The answer is he will, but we're not convinced that's as reassuring as it sounds.
  • First, Speaker #1 specifically asks about people he'll run into "at night." The kinds of people who you run into at night, Shmoopsters, are very often up to no good. It's when the bad guys do all their dirty work and, from a more spiritual perspective, it's the time of witches, devils, and temptation. We have no reason to think the people mentioned in this poem are necessarily the bad type, but we have no reason to assume they're good, either.
  • Second, Speaker #2's answer can be both comforting and creepy, depending on how you look at it. Think about this for a second—if you're heading somewhere, why would you possibly run into people who had already been there on your way?
  • Since we're talking about an inn that lies uphill, one answer is that maybe these people are on their way back, but that seems odd given that we think the inn might just be one stop on a long, extensive journey. And why would they be traveling specifically at night?
  • These questions get particularly complicated when you start thinking about the metaphorical or allegorical symbol potentially at work in the poem.
  • One of the more popular theories is that the road in "Up-Hill" is the so-called "road of life," and the poem is all about the twists and turns you meet along the way and how the wisdom of your elders helps you to be better prepared for those inevitable hardships. Another interpretation is that the path is the "straight and narrow gate" mentioned in Matthew 7:14, a.k.a. the road to Christian salvation. But only Benjamin Button moves backwards on the road of life. The idea of people finding salvation and then somehow becoming un-saved isn't exactly reassuring, so what does that make "those who have gone before"? Ghosts? Angels? People who have fallen along the way and are trying desperately to get back to the top of the hill? It's hard to say for sure, but we have yet to be totally convinced that Speaker #1 wouldn't be better off on that road alone.
  • On the other hand, knowing that someone—anyone—has done something before you and lived to tell the tale is always reassuring, particularly given the difficult nature of the path described in "Up-Hill."

Lines 11-12

Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

  • Line 11 takes us back to the inn, where Speaker #1 is wondering how he's supposed to get in.
  • It's a question that Speaker #2 doesn't really answer, he merely promises that someone will open the door and it won't be an issue. So, that sounds like a bonus.
  • This raises up another tricky habit of Speaker #2, and that is his uncanny ability to address Speaker #1's concerns without always directly answering his question. It's almost like Speaker #2 knows #1 so well that he knows what's really being asked even when it's not what Speaker #1 actually says.
  • In these two lines, for example, Speaker #2 doesn't say, "Don't worry, they've got a video censor that lights up when people are about to arrive so the door is always unlocked," he simply says "They won't leave you out in the cold." (You may remember a similar thing happens in lines 7 and 8, when Speaker #2 says "you cannot miss that inn" but doesn't say what it is that makes the inn stand out so clearly.)
  • For many people, this represents a very important piece of Christian, specifically Protestant, theology. Catholicism got a lot of flack back in the day for being too "works based," operating under the idea that people who did good and godly things would get into heaven. Protestants, however, disagreed, and claim that only the grace of and faith in God can save men's souls.
  • Speaker #2, then, seems kind of like a stand-in for the Protestant God. Instead of telling Speaker #1 what to do, he's simply saying "trust what I'm telling you and everything is going to work out just fine."
  • If we keep following this God-train of thought, the inn (a loaded Biblical allusion to begin with) also becomes a symbol of heaven. Don't worry though, we get into all that and more in the "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" section, only a few clicks away.

Lines 13-14

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.

  • Our question here is pretty self-explanatory. At the end of such along journey, Speaker #1 wants to know if this inn will offer rest and relaxation for his weary body.
  • The answer, on the other hand, is anything but self explanatory. Speaker #2 promises that Speaker #1 will find the sum of labour, but what in the wide world of sports does that mean exactly?
  • The wording may be complicated, but the message is probably a familiar one. Has your teacher ever caught you slacking on a homework assignment and said something to the effect of "you get out of school what you put into it"? This essentially means that homework doesn't do your brain any good if you're not actively engaged in and thinking about the assignment. Copying someone else's homework might save you from getting a bad grade for the day, but you didn't actually learn or absorb any skills or real knowledge.
  • Line 14 is kind of like that. In a literal interpretation of the poem, it suggests that the inn will be as comforting as you need it to be, which seems weird but actually makes sense; if you've just finished running a marathon, you're probably so tired that the least comfortable chair in the world is going to seem like the bed in the Presidential suite of a fancy hotel. Similarly, if you're used to sleeping in a bed that's already fairly comfortable, that same fancy hotel bed is still going to feel nice, but the difference will be less noticeable because it's only marginally better than the bed you had before.
  • The real bite of this line is theological, though. What Speaker #2 is saying is that you will find in Heaven the sum of your work while on Earth. If you expend lots of energy doing good things on your journey up the mountain, the Presidential suite is waiting for you in Heaven. If you complain a lot, steal from other travelers, and never throw away any of your trash, you're still going to have a room if you want one, but it might not be as nice as the others.
  • Be careful here, Shmoopsters, because this is not implying that being a little cranky on the trip up the mountain will keep you from getting into the inn; according to the Protestants, faith in God's grace—not good works—is what decides whether or not you get a bed. The kind of work you do on Earth merely determines how comfortable a bed it's going to be. (We wonder if they have those sleep number thingies.)

Lines 15-16

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

  • The poem ends with one last Q&A and, in a moment of spontaneous and unprecedented unselfishness, it's the only question asked that isn't exclusively relevant to Speaker #1. In line 15, Speaker #1 asks whether he will have a bed at this inn, but he also wants to know whether there will be room for others who might come, too.
  • In one of the few direct answers in this poem, Speaker #2 responds that yes, everyone who comes to the inn gets a bed—no exceptions.
  • As far as the Christian reading of this poem goes, this means that anyone who seeks salvation will be given salvation. It's an incredibly comforting and inspiring end to a poem that's basically about a really hard and difficult journey.
  • In a secular interpretation, though, it's a little darker. If you don't believe in an after-life, the idea of "beds for all who come" is more just like a creepy reminder that death is inevitable for everyone. Misery loves company, sure, but still probably not what you want to hear at the end of such a difficult climb.
  • Finally, it's important to remember when reading "Up-Hill" that, although we've offered up a pretty Christian-centric interpretation of the poem's symbolism and messages, part of the genius built into the poem is that the images are so generic that they could stand for a huge range of things. Rossetti was an incredibly religious woman, so a Protestant reading seems very likely as far as how she wanted the poem to be read, but that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't see it in a different context, too. So think about what we've said here, but don't be afraid to disagree, either. Rossetti was complex (maybe even a little bit cray-cray), so let's not assume that one interpretation of her poem is the only one that's worth writing about.

Mary Howitt

Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there."
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, " Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome -- will you please to take a slice?"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"

"Sweet creature!" said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you 're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day."

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple -- there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!"

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue --
Thinking only of her crested head -- poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour -- but she ne'er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.


In the first stanza of "The Spider and the Fly," the spider tries to convince the fly to come up to his parlour (web), but the fly replies that those who do so never return.

In the second stanza, the spider tries to convince the fly how comfortable his bed is, but the fly responds that those who sleep on his bed never wake again.

In the third stanza, the spider proclaims his affection for the fly and offers what he has in his pantry, but the fly doesn't wish to see it.

In the fourth stanza, the spider offers flattery and a chance for the fly to look upon herself in his mirror. The fly is flattered and says she'll call on him another day.

In the fifth stanza, the spider knows the fly was flattered, so he prepares for her arrival, believing that the fly has begun to trust him. When she returns, he flatters her again to seal the deal.

In the sixth stanza, still enamored with the spider's flattery, the fly gets closer and closer until the spider captures her.

The final stanza is spoken directly to the listener, in this case it is children. The poem is a lesson that some use flattery simply as a way to get what they want or to seduce other people. Although this is a general lesson intended for children, this poem has been interpreted as a cautionary tale for women not to be seduced by manipulative men.

On the Death of Anne Brontë


THERE 's little joy in life for me,

And little terror in the grave;

I 've lived the parting hour to see

Of one I would have died to save.

Calmly to watch the failing breath,

Wishing each sigh might be the last;

Longing to see the shade of death

O'er those belovèd features cast.

The cloud, the stillness that must part

The darling of my life from me;

And then to thank God from my heart,

To thank Him well and fervently;

Although I knew that we had lost

The hope and glory of our life;

And now, benighted, tempest-tossed,

Must bear alone the weary strife.


Quite evidently, the above poem On The Death Of Anne Bronte by English novelist and poet Charlotte Bronte is about loss. Bronte has lost someone she loves deeply i.e. her youngest sister, Anne, and doesn’t know where to go from here. Like many of us who have had to mourn the passing of someone we love, the poet now must find a way to effectively rid her system of the feelings of emptiness and despair that overwhelm her. It is a daunting task and one that she beautifully undertakes in four brief stanzas.

In the first stanza, we learn that the poet has “lived the parting hour to see
Of one I would have died to save” or, in other words, that someone she cares for deeply has died. Though we know from the title that that person is the poet’s sister, we are never directly told this. Instead, Bronte makes a wise decision to leave the specifics (name of the deceased, gender of the deceased and her relationship to the deceased) out of the poem thus allowing for it to be embraced by a larger audience and giving it more of a chance to be read at funerals. Regardless of the identity of the deceased, it is clear that the poet is taking this loss hard. While we may assume that she enjoyed life prior to this passing, we know for certain that this is no longer the case, “There's little joy in life for me.” In fact, we could be so bold as to say that she now looks forward to death (“And little terror in the grave”) so that she can be reunited with the deceased. This is a sentiment felt all too commonly when someone leaves us too soon.

The poet uses the second stanza to describe her loved one’s last moments (“the failing breath“, “sigh might be the last”, “see the shade of death”). Though Bronte may want to chase away death and keep the soon-to-be deceased a live forever she knows she can’t. I also get the sense that, in these last moments, she realizes how much pain her loved one is in and that forcing them to live another day would be selfish and an unjustified punishment.

Stanza three discusses the actual moment when the individual in question passes from one world into the next. Referring to death as “The cloud, the stillness,” Bronte touches upon the subtlety of this life changing (for the survivors) occurrence. While we may believe that the end to a life so special should be signaled by cannons being fired and horns being blasted, in truth, one’s passing is silent, instantaneous and, most frustrating of all, common. When it happens, especially after a long, painful illness, we are to be thankful. Though this moment of gratitude isn’t always as quickly reached as Bronte’s poem would suggest, it must be reached in order for the death to be fully dealt with.

If Bronte had ended the poem with the third stanza, we would’ve assumed that though she missed her loved one, she had come to terms with the loss and realized that their death was a necessity and a blessing. However, there is a final stanza and that leads you to assume something darker. In the final stanza, Bronte basically states that while all of the above (The deceased died peacefully. I praise God for the deceased’s new-found peace. Etc.) may be true, she is still in a lot of pain and may not bounce back from this loss, “And now, benighted, tempest-tossed, Must bear alone the weary strife.” She has lost “The hope and glory of our life;” and these things are not easy to come by. Though she may one day overcome this loss, it is evident that that time is not now.

In May of 1849 at the young age of twenty-nine, the aforementioned Anne died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Though she had been the third of six children, with Anne’s passing Charlotte was made an only child. Since her mother had died of uterine cancer when the children were very young, Charlotte was left to care for her aged father who, surprisingly enough ended up outliving all of his children. As you would assume from reading the poem, Charlotte and Anne had a strong bond. While all of the Bronte siblings were close, due to the deaths of the other Bronte children, the sisters were made inseparable especially towards the end of Anne’s life. Knowing this, it is no surprise that Charlotte wrote this poem for her precious sister.

This poem speaks to everyone who has lost someone they loved especially the people who were there when it happened. Sitting by your loved one, struggling to keep your emotions in check, watching the life start to fade from their eyes, you contemplate all that they were to you and the emptiness you’ll feel when they are gone. Though I realize people are quick to make a distinction between an animal and a human, I am not one of those people. A lost life is a lost life regardless of how many legs they stride upon. That having been said, while I had lost many people prior to the day that I lost my Eliza, it wasn’t until I laid on the floor stroking my twelve year old dog’s face that I finally saw what death looked like. I had raised this little girl from her first month on. I had taught her how to climb stairs. I had patiently wiped up her puppy pee each time she’d “have an accident” in her housebreaking days. I learned how to love another being unconditionally through her unconditional love for me. The day that the doctors told me that this invincible angel with the brown and white fur was dying of a liver disease, I felt the way that Bronte describes in this poem. I began to barter my life for hers knowing full well that God wasn’t about to allow that exchange to go through. Up until the moment when she started to breathe laboredly, I kept pushing for her to be spared. It wasn’t until I saw this once energetic canine be unable to push herself up off of the floor did it finally dawn on me that her death was an inevitability that I had to accept and asking for more time or exchange was a selfish, unreasonable request. The moment I realized she had died, I was thankful. Yes, I was thankful for a week until it hit me she wasn’t coming back and then I began to live out the feelings expressed in the final stanza. It is hard to be stoic when the chair your loved one used to sit in has been empty for an extended period of time.

Bronte has written a poem that transcends time because, sadly, death and grief do too. Whether we want to admit to it or not, we will all experience loss at one or more points in our lives and be faced with everything that goes along with it. Well-meaning people will tell us to be strong for our families and friends and to remember the good times when our loved one was well and getting on our nerves. Holy men and funeral directors will advise us to move past our pain because death is a natural part of life that teaches us to be grateful for our own lives. While all of this may be true, it doesn’t comfort us when we're overwhelmed with thoughts of how much we’ll miss the deceased and how many things he/she will miss out on. I believe Bronte’s poem says that death is an unfair blessing that leaves us with too many questions. It takes a second to occur and a lifetime for survivors to fully overcome. In short, it stinks.


Emily Bronte

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?

Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world's tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.

But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.

Then did I check the tears of useless passion—
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory's rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

The speaker opens the poem by describing her lover's grave that lies cold in the earth. Some time has passed since his death, so the speaker begins to reflect on her memory of him and wonders if time has totally depleted the love she felt. She then asks her "Sweet Love of youth" to forgive her if she forgets him, because the world's tide is always bringing new desires and hopes. At the same time she's never felt another love like his and all of her "life's bliss" is therefore in the grave with him.

As more time passes, the speaker realizes that despair has not destroyed her completely and that existence can be strengthened and cherished "without the aid of joy." At this point she's "checked her tears of useless passion" and refuses to "hasten down to that tomb" with her lover. She won't indulge in memory's pain too much because doing so would be like seeking that empty world again without her lover.

Lines 1-2

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!

· There you have it folks. Just in case you were wondering if this is really anelegy, here's your cold, hard proof. The speaker tells us about a loved one who's "cold in the earth," so we're pretty sure he's kaput.

· But there's more here than just that depressing little factoid. We notice that the speaker is also giving us a sense of just how "removed" the dead guy is from life (we're guessing he's a guy based on the stuff we see later and the speaker's voice). He's got "deep snow" piled above him and he's also "far, far removed" in that "dreary grave." So the imagery here really paints a picture that's not only cold, but also a long way from the living world.

· In our "In a Nutshell" section, we cited a critic who said "Remembrance" has a really slow rhythm, and we certainly hear that in line 1, largely because of that dash that acts as a caesura, or dramatic pause. The first syllable is a long one, too ("cold"), so we immediately hear a sense of lingering or dragging our feet a bit through these lines, which goes well with the whole death and mourningmotif. Check out "Sound Check" for more.

· The interjection we see in line 2 ("grave!") also gives us a sense of the speaker's mood at this point in the poem. She's a bit overwhelmed by grief and the distance she feels from her former lover. In a typical elegy, you usually get the grief part first and then the consolation comes later, so our speaker is keeping with the conventional formula.

· We also get the feeling of the speaker dragging her feet a bit in the repetition of "far" in line 2. "Far" is a long syllable, too, and since she repeats it, we really feel the speaker lingering over these words and the feelings behind them. Maybe we can imagine her recalling her lover's grave and feeling stricken by grief and distance.

Lines 3-4

Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?

· The speaker worries here that she forgot to love her lover because of all of the time that's passed by. Time has a way of severing our memories so much that it's easy to forget the people and things we swore we'd never forget.

· It wouldn't be a Victorian poem without an apostrophe like the one we see in line 3. Poets of the time loved talking to people who weren't really present and we see our speaker doing the same as she addresses her "only Love."

· Notice that the speaker is also beginning to develop her ideas regarding death and remembrance when she talks about forgetting to "love thee" after all the time that's passed. Time can be a real nuisance when it comes to memory, so we're thinking the speaker's a wee bit worried that the memory of her loved one has faded over the years.

· Time is even given a form in line 4 that's able to "sever" memory like a wave. Maybe we can imagine a really big wave in Hawaii cutting through the ocean and severing everything in its path. Time works the same way when it comes to memory and the love the speaker wishes to recall in line 3.

· We're already noticing that the speaker has a lot of emotions happening at once: grief and anxiety over her ability to remember to love her "only Love." She's even wondering if time has really severed everything "at last," as if she feels no control over the love she feels.

· So on top of the grief and anxiety, we also sense the speaker struggling to control and make sense of her own emotions, which she imagines as being vulnerable to time.

· Time may also be a symbol for the "waves" of life that bring new desires and hopes all the time. And since time and memory go together pretty well, the speaker may be drawing some connections for us. Check out our "Symbols, Imagery,  Wordplay" section for more.

· Since we're talking about Victorian poetry here, you know there's got to be some kind of prescribed meter going on. They were big into their forms in those days. Do you hear that daDUM repeated over and over in line 3? That's called an iamb and since we have five in total, our meter here is iambic pentameter, which just so happens to be one of the most common patterns in the English language.

· Brontë plays with this meter, though, and throws in lots of switcheroos, especially in the first two lines of every stanza. She adds a trochee in the beginning, an anapest in the middle, and an amphibrach at the very end of line 1. Check out more about this in "Form and Meter."

Lines 5-6

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,

· Line 5 also reminds us that some time has passed since the death of the speaker's lover by including words like "now" and "no longer." And with that time has come a change in the speaker that indicates her moving on from the memories of his death.

· Her thoughts don't "hover" over his grave anymore on that "northern shore." The distance between them (along with the mountains) provides ametaphorical comparison for the speaker moving away from those memories. Both time and the landscape act like a buffer between our speaker and the pain she once associated with her lover's death.

· We also notice another change in mood here to accompany the speaker's feelings. Instead of being all bummed and grief-stricken, the emphasis here seems to be on her being alone with her thoughts. In fact, she sounds a bit more contemplative rather than depressed.

· So just like the poem's meter that moves up and down in a rhythmic way (like those waves), we sense the speaker's moods here doing the same. One minute we're down in the dumps, the next we're leveling off, and so on.

· Notice too that we're seeing a lot of natural elements in this poem. Before we saw the sea, which we see here again with the added bonus of earth (mountains). So as the speaker moves through her emotions, the setting itself seems to move with her.

Lines 7-8

Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?

· The speaker's thoughts have wings in line 7, which rest near the lover's grave. Once again, our speaker is giving us some natural imagery with a real form here, which makes those thoughts and memories feel all the more real to us.

· Her thoughts used to hover and rest their wings over her lover's grave, almost becoming part of the landscape with "heath and fern leaves." But after all the time that's passed, the speaker realizes that her thoughts aren't "resting their wings" over her lover like they used to.

· It's not as if the speaker is trying to say, "hey dude, I'm over you now, good riddance." Instead she seems pretty worried about the fact that she doesn't think about her honey as much as she used to. She's really struggling with the effects of time and remembrance here, again feeling as if she lacks control over her own thoughts and emotions.

· The ending questions we see in both the first and second stanzas only emphasize the speaker's inner emotional struggle. She's throwing out lots ofrhetorical questions that she doesn't expect her lover to answer, but are still a bit disconcerting.

· Words like "noble heart" also give us some confirmation that the lover in question is in fact a guy. Remember, this is the Victorian era, and men and women in poetry often stuck with conventional descriptions and sexual roles. Men were "noble" or "valiant" while women were "faithful" and "gentle." Folks in the 19th century weren't rocking the boat all that often.

· Let's take a moment to check back in with the meter. Have another listen to line 8. You can really hear that iambic pentameter working nice and clear for us: thy noble heartforever, ever more? It seems the speaker really makes a few lines stick out for us with their perfect meter, while other lines are a bit more loosey goosey. Could it be that those loosey goosey lines are maybe reflecting the speaker's wavier emotions? We sure think so. Check out "Form and Meter"for more.  rhyme scheme: hover and cover; shore and more. They're perfect rhymes that help keep that wavelike iambic pentameter going.

Lines 9-10

Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:

· FYI: Our speaker's main squeeze has been dead and buried for fifteen years.

· And no, it's not déjà vu, it's a refrain: "Cold in the earth." By the start of the third stanza, we're reminded again of the speaker's memory of her lover "cold in the earth" and that fifteen years have passed—those "fifteen wild Decembers."

· All of those Decembers have come and gone, along with the passing of time, and winter has melted into spring. So we've got yet another element, fire, that's heating the earth with the cyclical pattern of the seasons.

· And it's no accident that the speaker has included both fire and ice in the same stanza. The speaker has not forgotten her lover, and yet the seasons and time continue to move on, never paying too much mind to the "coldness" the speaker can't quite forget.

· So you might say that the imagery here is dualistic. By that, we mean that it features opposing forces—the speaker's cold feeling of loss and the sun's warmth, which melts the snow—but not our speaker's heart.

· Here's the image we've got in our Shmoopmind: the world revolves in its natural way while the speaker appears to be standing still because of her remembrance of that December and the emptiness she feels. Spring, therefore, is not the rejuvenating force that it is for nature. It's just another season that's indifferent to the speaker's grief. Bummer alert.

Lines 11-12

Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

· Here, the speaker tells us that the spirit that can remember the dead loved one after so many years is faithful. So wait a second. What does that make our speaker?

· Well, on the one hand, we could definitely see her as faithful. After all, she's writing a poem about her dead boyfriend. It sure sounds like she remembers him—no matter how many years and changes have come.

· But then again, she seemed pretty worried about forgetting him in lines 5-8. It's as if she's trying to convince us that sure, she had a little trouble there in the beginning forgetting to love, but she's still able to remember, which therefore makes her "faithful."

· Remember how we said that the word "faithful" is often used in conjunction with women being good wives, lovers, etc.? Well here the speaker looks as if she's trying to prove that, especially to a Victorian audience that would've gotten a bit upset by a widow getting over her loss too quickly. The added exclamation here ("suffering!") gives an extra kick to the speaker's declaration of her faithfulness.

· By these lines then we don't sense the speaker's vulnerability as much as we did before. She seems to have gotten a hold of her thoughts and emotions a bit more and hasn't allowed those years of change to destroy her remembrance completely.

· Notice too that the subtle rhyme we see in "spring/suffering" helps to accent the speaker's feeling of discord with the seasons.

· It may be spring but she's "suffering" which give us more of a sense of the duality that's happening in this stanza.

Lines 13-14

Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world's tide is bearing me along;

· The speaker asks her long lost love to forgive her if she happens to forget him—thanks to all the changes the years bring.

· Line 13 starts with another apostrophe that's addressing the speaker's "Love of youth." That love could refer to both her lover and the young love she felt, which are both kind of interchangeable here. Nevertheless, she's concerned that she'll forget that love because of the time that continues to pass by.

· Maybe the speaker is also being a bit nostalgic over the special place "Love of youth" holds in our hearts. Think of young love, puppy love, first love, etc. It has a kind of innocent connotation because it only comes once. Everything after that "first love" will never be comparable to it, not because it's the best but because it's the first. It's fresh and new and exciting.

· The important thing is that she's admitting that time has taken its toll after all of those years of suffering and that there is always a chance that she might forget. So the speaker seems to be wavering between proving her remembrance (faithful, indeed) and admitting that there may be times when she forgets. She's only human, right?

· But that's kind of how memory works. Sometimes we remember, sometimes we forget, and all the while time keeps moving us along. When it comes to the people we love though, we might feel guilty if we ever forget.

· So by wavering between remembering and forgetting, the speaker seems to be hitting upon the sort of internal conflict we all feel in situations like these. That doesn't mean we love that person less over time, but rather it's the "world's tide" that's bearing us along.

· The "world's tide" may be a kind of metaphor related to life and time. People live, people die, and we learn to love them along the way even if they're not with us anymore. But in the meantime, there are dishes to do and French fries to eat.

· The speaker's tone is also a bit different here as she asks for forgiveness. She's sounding confessional and honest, so add that to the list of moods and tones we have going on in this poem and don't forget to check out our"Speaker" section for more.

Lines 15-16

Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

  • We have more honesty here as the speaker tells us that "other desires and other hopes" overwhelm her and might obscure her memory. But hey, they can't kill it completely. At least there's that.
  • And again we're sensing her vulnerability to the "world's tide" and all of the stuff it brings. We can't really control what comes our way in life, but we can accept the new stuff and work with it, which is what the speaker appears to be saying here.
  • Also, we're not sure exactly what these desires and hopes are but theambiguity here leaves all of that new stuff open to interpretation. We also sense the mysterious change that comes with the "world's tide" that we can't necessarily predict.
  • Notice the rhyme we have here too in along/wrong. The speaker seems to be equating the world's tide that's bearing her along with new changes as something that's not "wrong." Just because her memory may get fuzzy, that doesn't make her unfaithful, nor does it make the love she feels anything less than it was.
  • Likewise, the rhyme of thee/me provides a connection between the speaker's young love and the newer version of herself that's been changed by time. The two things are always together no matter what that tide brings.

الملفات المرفقة


SECOND TERM OF 1439/1440

My Tips for Studying





اسم المقرر

رمز المقرر



الكتابة 2

Writing 2

Engl 214



اساليب التخاطب


Eng 412



الترجمة 2

Translation 2

Eng 411



الشعر الرومانسي

Romantic Poetry

Eng 332



الشعر الفيكتوري

Victorian Poetry

Eng 431



الشعر الحديث

Modern Poetry

Eng 432



النقد الأدبي 2

Criticism 2

Eng 461




إحصائية الموقع

عدد الصفحات: 28

البحوث والمحاضرات: 86

الزيارات: 22274