Book Review: No Coward Soul Is Mine by Emily Brontë

Title: No Coward Soul Is Mine
Author: Emily Brontë
Year: 1993 (Brontë lived from 1818-1848)
Pages: 172
Dates Read: April 30 – May 1, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genres: P
Rating: ★★★
Favorite Poem: “When weary with the long day’s care”

Review: I really like this quote from the foreword: “Genius, if not innately difficult in manifestation, is rarely suppliant.”

A Mini Analysis

Something I found interesting is in the last stanza of  “Hope was but a timid friend”:

Hope–whose whisper would have given
Balm to all my frenzied pain–
Stretched her wings and soared to heaven;
Went–and ne’er returned again! (9)

This poem reminds me of Emily Dickenson’s.  Here is the first stanza:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

There is such a stark contrast between the two sentiments.  Brontë views hope here as a traitor, while Dickinson sees hope as a tireless friend.  both poets were reclusive, so it makes one wonder what happened in each of their lives to influence them to have such differing views of hope.  What happened to Brontë to make her so disconsolate, as opposed to Dickinson?


p. 41 — The rhyming can get very repetitive and sing-songy, which I think can probably be attributed to her youth at the time of their writing.  Here’s an example:

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon. (41)

There are thirteen -ing endings in one stanza alone.  They repeat throughout the entire poem.  While it does allow for an intenser reading of the poem than it may otherwise have had, I find it too much like a nursery rhyme, rather than a formal poem.

Here is another instance when the rhyme scheme works very well, in “Aye, there it is! It wakes to-night”:

And thou art now a spirit pouring
Thy presence into all–
The essence of the Tempest’s roaring
And of the Tempest’s fall–

Now that is a stanza I’ll find myself repeating in my head.  It’s the occasional bits like this that make this collection a 3-star read and not a 2-star one.

The Gondal Poems

These poems were written by Emily and her sister Anne, mostly when they were teenagers.  They center around a mythical people in the North Pacific and their politics, conquests, and wars.  Not all of the texts have been preserved, making it difficult to tell whether or not they were originally more cohesive.  As they are, they lack consistency and often sense.  Some may be incomplete.  All of these factors make them hard to follow.

Although the poems are clearly related, they do lack a certain artistic glue to bind them together.  Perhaps if the sister had lived longer, they may have continued editing the poems and published them separately in their own volume.  Or perhaps tey wouldn’t have.  They may have scrapped them entirely.  We can never know.

Because they were hard to follow, I lost interest in them.  A poem should be able to keep a reader’s full attention at least through a stanza.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there is a dark beauty to these words, and I wish we could have gotten more.

This is a rare collection of Emily Brontë’s poems that I found at work.  If you want to read her poetry, I’d suggest checking out her complete collection, which you can find in print at The Book Depository, on the Kindle at Amazon, or at your local library.

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