"No Coward Soul Is Mine" Summary
“No Coward Soul Is Mine” is a poem by Emily Brontë. Published in 1846, the poem examines the power of faith and the nature of the divine.
- The poem opens with the speaker declaring that despite all the challenges and troubles in the world, her faith makes her brave.
- The speaker does not doubt her faith, for she knows that God lives within her, lending her strength and fortitude.
- God resides in every living creature, the speaker says, imbuing them with a divine immortality that can never be truly destroyed. Thus, the speaker does not fear death.
Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 668
“No Coward Soul Is Mine,” by Emily Brontë, was first published in the 1846 anthology Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The poetry collection contained several poems by Emily, who published under the pen name Ellis Bell in order to avoid gendered censure of her work, along with other poems written by her two sisters Charlotte and Anne, who also published under the male pen names of Currer and Acton respectively. Although Emily Brontë is best known for her 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, which is widely regarded as a literary classic, her poetry offers unique insight into Brontë’s views on the human condition and our relationship to the divine.
In the first stanza of “No Coward Soul Is Mine,” Brontë’s speaker opens with the bold declaration that her soul remains courageous before the vicissitudes of the world. In the second half of the quatrain, the speaker explains how she can face the terrors of the world so fearlessly. The answer lies in the speaker’s knowledge of heaven’s glory; it is thus her faith that creates the stability that allows her to accept life’s challenges.
The second stanza begins an apostrophe, as the speaker directly addresses God. She describes God as “within my breast,” implying that due to God’s omnipresence, he must necessarily live within each and every person, animal and living thing. Thus, the speaker asserts that since she lives and breathes, she is imbued with God’s “Undying Life,” a divinity that allows her to rise to meet any obstacle.
Stanza three meditates on the thousands of religious orders and earthly desires that corrupt men and distract them from the true pursuit of the divine. The speaker describes these creeds as “vain,” a word which has a double meaning, to condemn both the futility and conceitedness inherent in any other path than the speaker’s own. The meaning of the final two lines of the stanza is only completed in stanza four due to Brontë’s use of enjambment. The speaker uses a simile to demonstrate the power of her faith, declaring that any attempt to lure her from pursuit of the divine is no more consequential to her than “withered weeds” or frothy seafoam are to the vastness of the ocean.
In stanza four, the speaker reasserts the impossibility of shaking her faith in God. Citing the infinite and immortal nature of God, the speaker believes there is nowhere she could venture without God. Her confidence in the “steadfast” and everlasting divinity of God provides stability and constancy within her own life, rendering her immune to doubt and temptation.
The fifth stanza speaks to the nature of God. God’s existence is not characterized by the speaker as a distant or amoral permanence, but as a benevolent and “wide-embracing love.” Similarly, while God is infinite and immortal, “animat[ing] eternal years,” he is not unchanging. God’s divinity does not grow or lessen, yet it is transformative. According to the speaker, it “changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears.”
In the sixth stanza, the scope of the poem broadens to explore the speaker’s existential philosophy regarding the universe. The speaker posits that since God is omnipresent and exists within every living thing, even if the earth, moon, suns, and universes were destroyed, they could not truly vanish, for they are still contained within the infinity of God. This revelation leads the speaker into the final, seventh stanza, wherein she contends that not even death can “render void” a single atom. In this way, death is revealed to be the real source of fear within the “world’s storm-troubled sphere” the speaker described in the first stanza.
In the final stanza, the speaker concludes, “there is not room for Death.” By this, she means that though people may be removed from the physical world by death, even death itself cannot truly destroy someone, for their “Being” and “Breath” will always remain alive, captured within the infinite immortality of the divine.