I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee stillEmily Brontë
This Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee analysis will look at the context, structure, and themes of the poem. Written in 1841 and first published in 1846, Emily Brontë’s Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee is a plea for the poem’s subject to find solace in nature during a dark period in their life. The speaker’s identity is ambiguous as either human or personified Earth. They imply that the subject was once a dreamer with an affinity to the natural world. The speaker implores the subject to pull themself from their darkness to be ‘enchanted’ and ‘soothed’ by ‘mountain breezes’ and ‘summer skies’.
Context: Emily Brontë’s Early Life
Emily Brontë was an English novelist and poet born in 1818 in West Yorkshire. The second youngest of six children, Emily received an education from an early age. She was given opportunities to develop her literary talents when the family relocated to Haworth, a small village on the edge of the Pennine Moors.
Her early life was punctuated by the tragic loss of her mother at the age of three, and later her older sisters Maria and Elizabeth. These deaths were presumably caused by tuberculosis. Their father removed her and her remaining siblings from public school owing to an epidemic of typhoid. The children had also told him of abuse at the school.
It was during this period that the siblings began to write fantastical stories together, inspired by their rural surroundings and love of myths and folklore. One such story included the fictional land of Gondal. This was a world inspired by her beloved home in the Yorkshire countryside and the Scottish Highlands. Emily and her sister, Charlotte, pursued this fictional land in their writing well into adulthood.
Context: An Older Brontë
In her later teenage years, Emily resumed a public education but returned home to Haworth with extreme homesickness. She became a teacher in a school in Halifax in 1838, at the age of 20. However, she once again broke under the pressure and time away from home. Numerous more trips away from her hometown were to follow. These included time spent in Belgium, where she remained stout in her West Yorkshire values and traditions, rendering her an outcast. She always clung to her roots. In 1844, she and Charlotte attempted to open a school within their home, yet there was little uptake due to its remote location.
In the same year, Emily, seen as solitary and reclusive, began to rewrite some of her earlier poems. These were inspired by Gondal and characterised by her love of nature. Upon finding these, Charlotte tried to convince her to publish them. Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee was included in this saga of poems. Enraged by Charlotte’s invasion of her privacy, Emily rejected the idea but relented once she discovered that her sister Anne had been writing her own poetic verse.
Together, in 1846, the trio published their work under the male pseudonyms of Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily) and Acton (Anne) Bell in order to avoid any prejudice they might incur as female writers. Emily continued to write under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell until her death from tuberculosis in 1848. Her sister Charlotte unveiled Emily’s true identity in 1850.
Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee Analysis: Structure
The 28-line poem consists of seven quatrains. The opening stanza, written in a second-person narrative voice, comprises two rhetorical questions directly addressed to the subject of the poem, expressing the speaker’s concern for their mental well-being. The remaining six stanzas are a plea to the subject to pull themselves from the darkness of their mind, returning to their once carefree, wandering ways, by rekindling their connection with nature.
The melancholy tone is juxtaposed with the jovial rhythm of the poem alternating between iambic heptameter and iambic trimeter. Such a rhythm was common in 16th and 17th century verse and known as classical prosody. This was a form of Ancient Greek verse. Perhaps this is a nod to the childhood love of myths and folklore of the Brontë siblings.
It is also an indicator that the poem, its narrator, and its subject could be based in the land of Gondal. This rhythm, however, is slowed down with regular pauses, caesura and end-stopped lines. This perhaps is intended to convey the raw emotion of the subject.
The rhyme scheme (ABAB, CACA, EFEF, GHGH, IJIJ, KLKL, AAAA) mostly adheres to the form of an alternate rhyme scheme. This perhaps conveys a message to the reader of nature’s power, strength, and consistency in the comfort it offers. However, the second and final stanza stray from the overall pattern. Perhaps this is an indicator of the subject’s wavering mental health. Nevertheless, the corresponding rhymes that conclude the poem might suggest that a constancy has been found.
Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee Analysis: Themes
The beauty of nature: The speaker of the poem uses the beauty of nature, and the subject’s previous connection with it, to try to draw them out of their dark solitude. References throughout the poem to nature’s ability to calm and soothe could be interpreted as nature taking on the role of a mother, soothing and caressing their distressed child.
Loneliness and solitude: The melancholy of loneliness and solitude is prevalent throughout the poem. The speaker addresses the subject with a plea. The plea is to draw them out of the dark regions of their mind. This is akin to the way that nature reaches out, offering a place to ‘dwell’ together in friendship and camaraderie.
Heaven and earth: While it might be expected for both the speaker and subject to
be awaiting reconciliation in heaven after they have died, the poem suggests that the subject would be happy to remain on earth for eternity – suggesting that it is the place where they will find their own true peace and reconciliation in their deep connection with nature.
Linking to other Poems
- A Wider View – Seni Seneviratne
- Lines Written in Early Spring – William Wordsworth
- With Birds You’re Never Lonely – Raymond Antrobus
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