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by Emily Brontë

Stanza 2 Summary

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

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 a metaphorical 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 of rhetorical 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. Plus the repetition of "forever ever more" has some more of that lingering sound to reflect time's endurance over life, death, and the human mind. We really feel time moving forward with or without our company here. And finally we can say for sure that Brontë is working with a good old-fashioned ABAB rhyme scheme: hover and cover; shore and more. They're perfect rhymes that help keep that wavelike iambic pentameter going.

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