Emily Bronte – The Old Stoic (Poem Summary)

The Old Stoic

Riches I hold in light esteem,
   And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream,
   That vanished with the morn:

And if I pray, the only prayer
   That moves my lips for me
Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear,
   And give me liberty!”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal:
   ’Tis all that I implore;
In life and death a chainless soul,
   With courage to endure.

Summary of the THE OLD STOIC:

The poem says that the objects that men most desire are wealth, love and fame. The old stoic gives no importance to any of these objects. She considers, wealth to be unimportant. She says that she strongly  despises love. She knows that a strong desire for fame is only a dream. Meaningless love she turns down and treats with contempt.

To her the glory is momentary, only for the time being and it vanishes with the next morning. So she never wishes to become great and glorious. The poet wishes to posses the same strength of heart that she now has. Her only prayer glides from her lips is that she must be permitted to be a free person and she should not be a slave to riches or love of fame.

The old stoic knows very well that the end of her life is very near. Even then she prays God to permit her to have a free soul. That soul must be ready to face any kind of situations firmly with courage and confidence. She prays that God must permit her to remain a stoic even in the future. She must have strength to endure pain.

Short Biography of Emily Bronte:

Emily was the fifth of the six children of Patrick Brontë, Irish-born perpetual curate of the remote Yorkshire moorland parish of Haworth. After the death of their mother Maria when Emily was three, the children were given an inspiring and wide-ranging liberal and academic education by their father and thoroughly instructed in domestic ‘order, method and neatness’ by their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell.

Emily’s work first appeared in print when, on Charlotte’s urging, a collection of the three sisters’ poems was privately published in 1846 under the names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; outstanding among them is Emily’s ‘No coward soul is mine’.

Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1847, is reminiscent of Gondal in its moorland setting and passionate war between two families. One review dismissed it as ‘coarse and loathsome’. Emily began another novel, but it was destroyed by Charlotte after Emily’s death, aged 30, from tuberculosis in December 1848. Wuthering Heights was only rescued from obscurity in the 1880s, championed by Algernon Swinburne, Matthew Arnold, and G K Chesterton, who described it as ‘written by an eagle’.

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