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“To Imagination” is a poem written by Emily Bronte. It is a poem that is written in tribute to imagination, to express her gratitude for the same in a life filled with sorrow.
About the Poet:
Emily Bronte (1818-1848) was a notable English author. She was one of the eminent Bronte sisters who shook the literary world. Famous works of hers include “Wuthering Heights”, “No Coward Soul Is Mine”, and “To Imagination”.
This poem consists of 6 stanzas consisting of 6 lines each. Its form is similar to that of an ode as it is a lyrical poem that is written in praise of imagination.
Analysis and Summary:
When weary with the long day’s care, And earthly change from pain to pain, And lost, and ready to despair, Thy kind voice calls me back again: Oh, my true friend! I am not lone, While then canst speak with such a tone!
The stanza begins with how, for the poet, imagination is the one thing that helps her out of the endless sorrows and pains of life.
This stanza is filled with vivid imagery in describing the sorrows of “the long day’s care” and how changes on the Earth are “from pain to pain”. Imagination, the poet portrays, is a solution to this dreariness. She personifies it to be her “true friend” with a “kind voice” that rids away her loneliness. Thus, a dichotomy between sorrow and its despair and imagination with its joy and compassion is revealed in this stanza.
So hopeless is the world without, The world within I doubly prize; Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt, And cold suspicion never rise; Where thou, and I, and Liberty, Have undisputed sovereignty.
In this stanza, the poet states that a world without imagination is “hopeless”. Instead, she feels that her world filled with imagination does not have negative emotions and is one which is ideal and perfect.
Here again, the poet arises yet another dichotomy– between the real world and her imaginary world. She puts her imaginary world on a pedestal and she is inclined to believe that this world of hers is one that she “doubly” rewards. She believes that this utopic world is absent of “guile, and hate, and doubt,/ And cold suspicion”, simultaneously critiquing the perils of the real world. Again, in this ideal world of hers, she finds that she, her imagination and “Liberty,/ Have undisputed sovereignty”, meaning to state that it is with the imagination that freedom comes.
What matters it, that all around Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie, If but within our bosom’s bound We hold a bright, untroubled sky, Warm with ten thousand mingled rays Of suns that know no winter days?
In this stanza, the poet asks what would it matter about dark, negative surroundings if she had a bright imagination to hold onto her with the absence of any troubles.
Once again, the poet details the joys of imagination. From this stanza, one can understand that the poet not only views imagination as a companion or a key to freedom but also as a literal escape from the perils of reality– them being “Danger, and guilt, and darkness”. She feels that if were to imagine “a bright, untroubled sky” – that is, a world devoid of problems– coupled with the warmth of sunshine and an absence of “winter days” or coldness in life, then it would offer a respite from troublesome reality.
Reason, indeed, may oft complain For Nature’s sad reality, And tell the suffering heart how vain Its cherished dreams must always be; And Truth may rudely trample down The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown.
The poet understands that reason will not agree with nature’s “sad reality” and protest against such “vain” dreams; so does truth not understand. But, imagination, she feels blows away these concerns.
In this stanza, Reason, Nature, Truth and Fancy– that is, imagination– are all personified. A sort of dialogue between them ensues here where reason and truth, that is, logic, are pitted against imagination. This is a way for the poet to state how people often disregard imagination just because it is not real without understanding its significance in a sorrowful world.
But thou art ever there, to bring The hovering vision back, and breathe New glories o’er the blighted spring, And call a lovelier Life from Death. And whisper, with a voice divine, Of real worlds, as bright as thine.
Here, the poet states that imagination is always back to bring “new glories” to one’s life and make it all the more pleasant until death.
In this stanza, Life and Death are again personified. Yet another layer to the imagination is added here– a trustworthy companion who is sure to bring back joy. This reveals the unshakeable belief the poet has in her imagination and how she wholeheartedly is under the impression that imagination– brightens life and makes it all the more “lovelier” and capable of creating worlds that are better than the real world. Thus, she almost deifies imagination here by saying it has a “voice divine” and assigning it the role of a creator of worlds.
I trust not to thy phantom bliss, Yet, still, in evening’s quiet hour, With never-failing thankfulness, I welcome thee, Benignant Power; Sure solacer of human cares, And sweeter hope, when hope despairs
In this final stanza, the poet states that while she does not trust imagination fully, she still gives in to it at the end of the day and finds solace in the same.
Here, the poet, in the line “I trust not to thy phantom bliss” reveals how even she falls prey to cold logic. And yet, she is also aware that no matter how “phantom” the bliss of imagination is, she still finds comfort in it as she calls it “Benignant Power” and “Sure solacer of human cares”, so much so that it is able to provide “sweeter” hope even when real hope “despairs”.
This is a beautiful poem. It brings out how, while life is indeed filled with sorrow and despair, hope finds a way to fill one’s life with the power of imagination.