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by Emily Brontë

Stanza 6 Summary

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

Lines 21-22

But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy, 

  • Our speaker says here that those dreams have perished, but at least there's a bright side: despair hasn't destroyed her completely. So the bliss may be gone but we're guessing there's something else to come in the following lines.
  • The imagery surrounding bliss and dreams has that same sort of golden light to it too. So again we're missing that inspiring light but maybe there's something else to be had.
  • Despair gets a capital D here, too, for good reason.. Despair often strikes us as a large ominous force that consumes us, so it gets a big D instead of a little one. This despair means business.
  • Notice, too, the shift in tone that goes down in these lines. The "but" signals a change in focus for this elegy. We've already seen the grief and anxiety part, but we're still waiting on the consolation part. So does the "but" mean it's finally headed our way? We certainly hope so.
  • We have more alliteration here, too, in "days, dreams, Despair, destroy." All those D sounds really emphasize that despair with a capital D, don't you think? Check out "Sound Check" for more.

Lines 23-24

Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy. 

  • And here comes the consolation part. After realizing that despair couldn't destroy her completely, she learns that life could be cherished "without the aid of joy." There's your silver lining, folks. Life isn't always about bliss and joy. Sometimes we have to do without and find other ways to keep on truckin'.
  • So even though all of the speaker's bliss is in the grave, she's still able to live in other ways that can be cherished. Her despair taught her something about herself and the ways one can overcome hard times. 
  • And again we have more ambiguity here that doesn't limit the personal meanings one may bring to this poem. A person's source of strength can vary dramatically, so it makes sense that the speaker wouldn't look to limit that in any way.
  • Oftentimes you see poets talking about other places where joy can be found or that joy is never really lost. But here our speaker says enough with all that. She's going to learn how to do without joy altogether rather than pretend she still feels it. A mighty tough lady, if you ask us.
  • Notice the rhyme we have here that links "destroy" with "joy." We get the feeling that maybe the speaker is drawing our attention to the idea that joy isn't the be-all and end-all to fix what's been destroyed. There are other ways to come back from despair.

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