Summary

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 17, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 718

Introduction

Charlotte Brontë’s “Life” was first published in 1846 under Brontë’s pseudonym, Currer Bell. All three Brontë sisters used pseudonyms and together published the collection Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell , the volume in which “Life” appears. By contrasting the brightness and beauty of life with the darkness...

(The entire section contains 718 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Introduction

Charlotte Brontë’s “Life” was first published in 1846 under Brontë’s pseudonym, Currer Bell. All three Brontë sisters used pseudonyms and together published the collection Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, the volume in which “Life” appears. By contrasting the brightness and beauty of life with the darkness and gloom of existence, Brontë reminds readers that the good outweighs the bad. “Life” dismisses the idea that the world and its happenings are all bad—there is indeed an abundance of goodness.

Summary

In the first stanza, Brontë’s speaker establishes what life is not, while the rest of the poem emphasizes what it actually is. The first four lines of “Life” warn that life is not a dream, though sages have, in their wisdom, said that it may be likened to one. Brontë’s speaker calls on the audience to “believe” that this is not the case. The speaker continues, saying that even if the morning begins with a little rain, it does not mean that it will not be a good day. In fact, Brontë’s speaker says that many a pleasant day has begun with morning rain, so it is not an indicator of a bad day forthcoming. The second quatrain builds upon the rain mentioned in the previous sentence. Brontë’s speaker admits that sometimes the sky is indeed full of gloomy clouds. The next line begins with “but,” alerting readers that an exception or clarification is coming. While there may be stormy clouds of gloom, the speaker says they are all “transient,” meaning they cannot be permanent. They will pass over as clouds always do. Indeed, the speaker notes that these very same rain clouds are what make roses bloom. The speaker asks the audience why they would lament these showers, especially when they make flowers grow.

The second and shortest stanza begins with a positive description of the passage of time. Even though time passes by rapidly, many sunny days are lived because of it. These days and moments may merrily fly by, but Brontë's speaker encourages the audience to enjoy them. There is cheer and gratitude in the passage of time rather than continual doom and gloom. Although the pace of life may go quickly, the speaker is suggesting that we should find the cheer that is still there even amidst its speedy passage.

The third stanza marks a shift in the tone of the content, where Brontë's speaker begins discussing depressing and upsetting events that occur in life. One such event is death, which is personified in these lines. Death enters the picture and calls away “our Best”—the people we care about—and takes them with it. When this happens, or other sad occurrences in life transpire, it sometimes feels like sorrow has won over hope. This sorrow is described as heavy, like it weighs one down unlike the lightweight presence of hope. The speaker does not deny that these experiences do happen in life, and this section is dedicated to recognizing their regular occurrence.

The next quatrain of the third stanza begins with “yet,” another signal to readers that this section will clarify what was discussed in the previous parts of the poem. While the former describes the devastation and sorrow of death, especially of a loved one, these lines emphasize how we can spring up from this damage. Hope is “elastic,” allowing it to emerge despite the many grief-inducing experiences we may have. The endurance of hope is a reminder that it has not been defeated; instead, it has merely fallen down. Hope has wings of gold that keep her flying even after devastation, still strong and able to bear “us” successfully.

In the final quatrain, Brontë’s speaker builds upon the description of hope that was established in the previous quatrain. With hope, we will fly without fear and with the bravery of man, even in the face of trials and tribulations. These trials will come, no doubt, and even still humanity lives on. For even amidst these struggles, hope withstands with glory—and does so victoriously. Despair is oftentimes inevitable, the poem ultimately suggests. But by taking hardships in stride, courage can quiet these difficult feelings. The poem ends with an exclamation that calls readers to take action by bravely having hope.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Life Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Next

Themes