Emily Jane Brontë

Emily Jane Brontë: A Death-Scene

Emily Jane Brontë wrote A Death-Scene on 2nd December, 1844. It was published in 1846 in a collection of her and her siblings' poetry.

The poem has been taken from the Penguin Classics Collection:

A Death-Scene

1. ‘O Day! he cannot die
When thou so fair art shining!
O Sun, in such a glorious sky,
So tranquilly declining;

2. ‘He cannot leave thee now,
While fresh west winds are blowing,
And all around his youthful brow
Thy cheerful light is glowing!

3. ‘Edward, awake, awake-
The golden evening gleams
Warm and bright on Arden’s lake-
Arouse thee from thy dreams!

4. ‘Beside thee, on my knee,
My dearest friend! I pray
That thou, to cross the eternal sea,
Wouldst yet one hour delay:

5. ‘I hear its billows roar-
I see them foaming high;
But no glimpse of a further shore
Has blest my straining eye.

6. ‘Believe not what they urge
Of Eden isles beyond;
Turn back, from that tempestuous surge,
To thy own native land.

7. ‘It is not death, but pain
That struggles in thy breast-
Nay, rally, Edward, rouse again;
I cannot let thee rest!’

8. One long look, that sore reproved me
For the woe I could not bear-
One mute look of suffering moved me
To repent my useless prayer:

9. And, with sudden check, the heaving
Of distraction passed away;
Not a sign of further grieving
Stirred my soul that awful day.

10. Paled, at length, the sweet sun setting;
Sunk to peace the twilight breeze:
Summer dews fell softly, wetting
Glen, and glade, and silent trees.

11. Then his eyes began to weary,
Weighed beneath a mortal sleep;
And their orbs grew strangely dreary,
Clouded, even as they would weep.

12. But they wept not, but they changed not,
Never moved, and never closed;
Troubled still, and still they ranged not-
Wandered not, nor yet reposed!

13. So I knew that he was dying-
Stooped, and raised his languid head;
Felt no breath, and heard no sighing,
So I knew that he was dead.

Context

The poem is primarily about Gondal, an imaginary world that she and her sister Anne Brontë created. The other two siblings, Charlotte Brontë and Patrick Branwell Brontë created an opposing land called Angria. In the stories and poems the two lands were often at war. The lands were created as islands in poems such as from Retrospection by Charlotte. These waters were described as fierce and unrelenting.

The poem is a letter written from Augusta di Segovia to her first husband, Lord of Elbë. Augusta was written about by Branwell, Emily's brother, in a similar format, from Alexandar Percy a hero of Angria, Augusta being his first wife.

Poetic Techniques

Structure

The poem has a rhyme pattern of ABAB and stanzas 1-7 are in quotation marks, this could show that Augusta is directly addressing her husband, Edward, as she calls to him with this name.

Gondal references

The poem uses frequent references to water: "Arden's lake" in stanza 3, "eternal sea" in stanza 4 and "Eden isles" in stanza 6. This water is most probably Emily referring to the water surrounding Gondal. There are other parts of nature that are touched upon in this poem, primarily in stanza 10, these could showing how Augusta is turning to nature to help her cope with the oncoming and unavoidable grief.

In-depth analysis

The poem describes Augusta's sorrow over her dying husband, describing the journey of his final movements. In the second stanza Augusta is trying to convince herself that he will survive, using positive words such as "youthful", "cheerful" and glowing. In the third stanza, she is willing him to awake from his endless sleep. Emily describes the surroundings of the pair as a "golden evening" and the lake as being "warm and bright" - yet more positive imagery.

The fourth stanza shows how close the couple are. True love could be what Augusta is feeling when she describes him as her "dearest friend" and wants "one hour delay" on his fate. In stanza five, Augusta describes the surroundings more with in-depth explanation of the water around them. Here it also appears that she is looking for hope as she is "straining".

Stanza six shows the difference naturally between Gondal and Angria with the high oceans that are "tempestuous" and split the two up. Stanza seven follows a similar format to the third stanza, where Augusta is trying to convince herself that he is not dying. There are feelings of pain where she feels that he is leaving her.

In stanza eight, the scene between the two is described as the pair look at one another: the last look of pain and suffering that "moved" Augusta. In the ninth stanza, she feels she can let go and not feel guilty for no "further grieving". Stanza ten is back to the nature of Gondal. In this stanza the sun mimics what Lord of Elbë, Augusta's husband was doing, "sunk to peace". The setting described here is of the land, not sea, and it appears to be much like the moorland that Emily grew up in.

Using somewhat religious imagery, stanza eleven describes the last few moments of life in the Lord of Elbë. In stanza twelve, seen as it is from Augusta's point of view, confusion seems rife as she uses negatives. However, she does seem proud that her husband did not give in to weeping and wandering. In the thirteenth and final stanza, Augusta appears to come to terms with the death and is able to check his breathing. The frequent punctuation in this stanza heightens the time period that she is with him. The word "languid" shows how limp and lifeless the Lord was at his end, and the last line emphasises this as with the finality of life comes the end of the poem.

External links

  • Official Brontë website
  • Wikisource - The works of Emily Brontë
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