The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Except for its brevity, Emily Brontë’s lyrical poem “Remembrance” contains all of the characteristics of an elegy. Its subject is the mourning of the death of a beloved; the poem is meditative; the poet attempts to come to terms with the death of her lover from the past; finally, there is some evidence that the poet accepts her loss and finds solace, at long last.

The persona of the poem may or may not be Emily Brontë herself. Biographers have tried unsuccessfully to identify a young man from her youth whose death could have later given occasion to the writing of the poem. Whatever the case, the first person narrator addresses her dead lover, mentally though not literally, at his graveside some fifteen years after his burial. She remembers and thus observes a “remembrance” as she comes to terms with his death, trying—still trying—to give him up.

The first two stanzas are each questions addressed to her only lover, many years dead. “Have I forgot to love thee?” she asks, after letting the reader know that he is “cold in the dreary grave.” Her first problem is to determine if enough time has passed to “sever” her loss. Whether she has forgotten to love him is an ironic question, since the act of remembering him is in itself an act of love. She then, in the second stanza, asks herself if her thoughts still “hover” to his grave far away.

In the third stanza, she asks her dead lover to forgive her if she...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Brontë wrote “Remembrance” in accord with conventions of poetry at the time in that the work itself is mechanically, though masterfully, balanced. The eight stanzas have a neatly observed rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, and so on. Odd-numbered lines usually contain twelve syllables, although some are clipped to eleven. Even-numbered lines consistently have a ten-count rhythm. The poet makes occasional use of alliteration (“forgive if I forget,” “No later light has lightened,” “while the world’s tide,”) and assonance (“existence could be cherished,” “wish to hasten”).

The effectiveness of the poem, however, does not depend upon use of convention. Rather, her evocation of a series of images not only makes impressions but also conveys meanings. The poem starts with “Cold in the earth and the deep snow piled above thee,” manifesting at once the most powerful feeling of the work. Not only is the poet mentally and spiritually visiting the grave of her dead lover, but also both she and the reader realize the finality of death and the hopelessness of recovery.

The first two stanzas of the poem record questions, as does the final line. Has she forgotten him, and, having known him, can she now or at any time “seek the empty world again?” The first two questions are true questions; the final one is itself an answer: No, she cannot forget him nor can she “seek the empty world again.” Such an effort is...

(The entire section is 406 words.)