Stanza 3 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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.
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.