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Remembrance

Remembrance

by Emily Brontë

Stanza 1 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

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 an elegy, 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 mourning motif. 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."

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