On surface level, it seems that “Cold in the Earth” is a poem about the lose of a beloved. It deals with grief, a sense of despariring, and a feeling of coldness. However, “Cold in the earth” is not a display of grief but an exploration of the psychology of loss. The title “Cold in the Earth” gives a feeling of coldness; frozen, desperate despairing sensation, an aura of death and loss. The poem provides different perspectives of viewing the idea of loss and how one copes with loss; it can be said to serve as a multi-way lens of viewing the idea of loss.
The first stanza describes the love that Bronte has lost, and is full of emotion. “Deep snow piled above thee”, this quote has two purposes. Firstly it describes the snow, which adds to the feeling of coldness, leaving a frozen, desperate, despairing sensation, which contrasts to the warmness associated with love. The fact that the ‘snow is piled above thee’ enforces the fact that her lover is gone, far beyond reach and can never be retrieved. She then asks a rhetorical question, “Have I forgot, my Only Love, to love thee”, ‘Only Love’ here emphasises the extent of her love by being capitalized.
In the second stanza Bronte compares her thoughts to a bird “my thoughts no longer hover”, this metaphor shows a contrast between the freedom of flight that the bird enjoys in comparison to the containment that the persona feels. The second stanza tells us that she when alone, cannot think about the mountains near Angora’s shore. This is an extremely important biographical reference to her own life; as well as a personification. Most of the poems written by Emily Bronte were based around the world that she created with her siblings. This world was called Gondal.
It was a land of four provinces that was ruled by King Julius Brenzaida, one of these provinces was called Angorra. Bront had a reclusive personality it could be said that she preferred to live her life through the characters in her world. Thus, this poem ‘Cold in the Earth” can be taken from the viewpoint of Rosina Alcona (the persona), and Brenzaida. Brenzaida has died 15 years previously and Rosina is reflecting upon his death. The third stanza starts the same way the first did, “Cold in the earth”, this repetition reinforces the death and sadness that she feels about her lost love.
This stanza seems far more positive than the last two; as she describes how after the death of her lover her life continues much like the seasons, “those brown hills have melted into spring”, the season spring here shows how things are getting better as she deal with his death. This shows a cyclical pattern, the spring brings her joys ans the ability to forget, whereas in the winters the memories of her 15 year dead love comes flooding back. In the fourth stanza Bronte apologises to the beloved’s memory for forgetting him, if she has, “Sweet Love of youth, forgive if I forget thee”.
She gives an explanation for her lapse in remembrance; the pressure of the the world and its affairs as well as more desires and avenues to explore, but there is also a tone of regret in the poets’ choice of words; “hopes which obscure but cannot do thee wrong. “, this statement insinuates that even though she may have other desires she never forgets the beloved, and the love she feels for others will never eclipse the love she felt and still feels for him.
As if to give support to the previous statement the poet dedicates this stanza to the memory of the beloved, if the previous stanza stirred his memory, then these four lines are filled with an emotion similar to the ones persona felt shortly after his death. Almost as if her regret and remorse has been refreshed by the memory of the beloved. The words ‘Sun’ and ‘Star’ are both capitalised as if to enforce the effect that the beloved had on the persona. As a means of reassurance, Bronte follows the previous stanza with an almost rhetorical series of lines, as if trying to convince herself that her life is still worth living.
“Then did I learn how existence could be cherished”, this shows that although she did feel great love for him she still has the strength of character to mourn and then put her life back together. This is in context with the third stanza, in which also points this out by saying “… those brown hills have melted into spring-… “. In the last verse “Strengthened and fed without the aid of joy”, the use of the word ‘fed’ gives the image of rejuvenation and rebirth, an image that contributes to Bronte’s strength of character.
Following the theme of recreation, Bronte draws feelings from her memories. “Then did I check the tears of useless passion”, Bronte here demonstrates the ability to pick herself up, and allow herself to heal and gain back her love for life. She also remembers herself as young, showing that as the scars that were dealt by his death heal she herself grows more mature. In this light we see that there was some good drawn from her lover’s passing, the self-healing process acted as a learning curve for her and due to that learning she has gained more from life, as she now appreciates its value.
In the final stanza Bronte reflects on the pain she felt, but instead of remembering it as a horrible experience she uses words like ‘rapturous’ and ‘divine’, however this choice of words doesn’t relieve the pain so much as it enriches it. It gives the image of a pain that could never be experienced through physical harm, but only through an assault on ones mind and soul. Another important aspect found in the poem was the stress on the ballad-like structure and lyrical as well as dramatic affect.
The extensive use of commas, question marks, hyphens, and semi-colons all contribute to the lyrical affect of the poem, which reverbreates in the mind after reading it. The sprinkling of alliteration, “… wearing wave? “, ” .. ever, ever… “, “… desires and darker… “, and the anadiplosis of the “Cold in the Earth” and “All my life’s bliss” contribute both to the dramatic and lyrical affect as well as the strenthing and stressing her wandering thoughts. There is a psychological flow in the poem: Firstly, her memories of Bronte with her lover is frozen along with the ‘deep snow piled above’ her lover’s corpse.
Secondly, she is in the dilemma of forgetting her beloved and these memories or not. Then, she represses her wish to die and leave this world (‘Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten down to the tomb already more than mine’). Fourthly, she cannot let go of her love for him, and she doubts upon the thought of forgetting that ‘divinest anguish’, whether she can move on with her love without such thoughts of memories (‘How could I see the empty world again? ‘). At last, no conclusion is reached. Bronte is confused and torn as ever before.