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by Emily Brontë

Stanza 4 Summary

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

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 the ambiguity 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.

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