Fall is certainly one of the best times of the year, but the leaves are a little different for me this time around because my wife and I have made our way into the country and now the colors are a lot more lively. With it, however, is that feeling that the winter is on its way, and that November death lull is nearly here, too.
Today, I am going to give my analysis for Emily Bronte’s poem “Fall, Leaves, Fall.” Remember, this is my interpretation of the poem, so if you want to read the full poem and leave your interpretation in the comments, you can do so here.
I could speak a while about watching Charlie Brown and friends sail the ocean blue with Christopher Columbus one dreary Sunday in November and finding myself looking away from the television at the leafless, lifeless trees outside and searching somewhere deep inside myself for happiness. Emily Bronte’ “Fall, Leaves, Fall” reminds me of that memory, because while I am thankful for those days in my youth when the rain hit the window on those gloomy, fall afternoons, I am still reminded of the growing darkness that lies at the end of one’s life.
In the first quatrain of the Emily Bronte poem “Fall, Leaves, Fall,” the author espouses a love for the autumn season as the spring withers away until the next year. “Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;” she states. “Lengthen night and shorten day; / Every leaf speaks bliss to me, / Fluttering from the autumn tree” (Bronte).
Time and life dwindling away are always tried and true themes in stories of change and renewal. I mean, what greater imagery is there than the leaves falling from a colorful tree to remind us that life moves in cycles? The only sadness, I guess, is the shortened days and longer nights, but without the abbreviated days, it really wouldn’t feel so fall out, would it?
Yet, poems are rife with metaphor, so one has to look a little deeper at the language used in the poem. Leaves “fall” which is of course the season of fall in which the leaves drop from trees, but in the same way, one could argue that leaves falling symbolize the decent of life or the death of a particular thing as it drops from its vital, life-giving branch and lands on its grave—the Earth itself. To “Lengthen night and shorten day” is to see the darkness growing in our own lives while the light is extinguished. Our lives literally grow shorter and the light leaves us for darkness.
Meanwhile, “Every leaf speaks bliss to me” shows the author’s feelings toward this growing inevitability. Every leaf that has fallen, every day that has gone by, has been bliss, and even as the end looms, there is much to be thankful for as those days can be counted. Bronte relishes this realization and looks toward the future.
In the second quatrain of the poem, Bronte states “I shall smile when wreaths of snow / Blossom where the rose should grow;” which hints at the coming winter and the colder times one may experience literally and toward the end of one’s life. Sure, cold overtakes the rose (love and warmth), but what else is there to do but embrace the coming darkness? “I shall sing when night’s decay / Ushers in a drearier day,” Bronte finishes. “Decay” is an odd word choice because what else decays but nature and humanity? The link between the two is clear to me.
The many people that live in the Midwest and the select lunatics that live in Michigan understand the frailty that exists between autumn and winter. When you have the first, the second is very, very close behind. Though, is that not symbolic of life? As we know the good days are always haunted by the bad ones, and one’s life can have love and warmth, but we all face the coming cold and darkness regardless of our station or our purpose. Bronte tells us that our hearts are in the drearier days, but if we cherish the days we’ve had and relish the days ahead…then any amount of dreariness is okay.
Brontë, Emily. “Fall, Leaves, Fall .” Poetry Foundation, 10 Oct. 2022, poetryfoundation.org/poems/52330/fall-leaves-fall.