Life by Charlotte Bronte – Summary and Questions & Answers

Life – by Charlotte Bronte

Life, believe, is not a dream,

So dark as sages say;

Oft a little morning rain

Foretells a pleasant day :

Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,

But these are transient all;

If the shower will make the roses bloom,

Oh, why lament its fall ?

Rapidly, merrily,

Life’s sunny hours flit by,

Gratefully, cheerily,

Enjoy them as they fly.

What though death at times steps in,

And calls our Best away ?

What though Sorrow seems to win,

O’er hope a heavy sway?

Yet Hope again elastic springs,

Unconquered, though she fell,

Still buoyant are her golden wings,

Still strong to bear us well.

Manfully, fearlessly,

The day of trial bear,

For gloriously, victoriously,

Can courage quell despair!

Meanings

sages – learned men

sway – controlling influence

unconquered – not defeated

transient – temporary

buoyant – that which can rise upwards

lament – express grief or regret

trial – judgement

quell – end, suppress

despair – hopelessness

Introduction:

Often we hear people talking about all the negative experiences of life. And so everyone takes it for granted that life is a burden. But in this poem, Charlotte Bronte gives us a very optimistic and motivational message that life is full of hope. She encourages us to have courage and move on because ‘Every dark cloud has a silver lining’ and ‘There is always light at the end of the tunnel’

Central Idea:

The poem encourages us to look at life with a positive attitude. It tells us to be optimistic and have the courage to persevere and we will overcome our difficulties and be victorious.

 Summary:

Life, believe, is not a dream,

So dark as sages say;

The poet Charlotte Bronte begins the poem by telling us that we must not believe what the sages (learned men) have said that life is a dark dream. She advises us not to fear or dread life.

Oft a little morning rain

Foretells a pleasant day :

Taking the metaphor of the morning rain which symbolizes sorry and despair, the poet tells us that even if there is a little morning rain, the rest of the day is a pleasant one. So also even if there are problems and worries in our life, our life is going to be lovely and pleasant.

Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,

But these are transient all;

If the shower will make the roses bloom,

Oh, why lament its fall?

In these lines, the poet takes the metaphor of the clouds of gloom which symbolizes sorrow and grief that are present in everyone’s’ lives. These showers are transient, they are temporary, they come for a short while, yet they make the roses bloom. So also in our life even if we have sorrow and grief, it will lead to joy and happiness. The poet then asks us a rhetorical question, ‘Why lament its fall?’ which means that if the showers make the roses bloom then we shouldn’t complain about the rainfall. So also if we have sadness and grief in our lives don’t worry as these will bring cheer and delight.

Rapidly, merrily,

Life’s sunny hours flit by,

Gratefully, cheerily,

Enjoy them as they fly.

Here the poet says that the happy moments in our life move very quickly and cheerfully. She advises us to enjoy these fast flying moments before they are lost forever.

What though death at times steps in,

And calls our Best away ?

What though Sorrow seems to win,

O’er hope a heavy sway?

The poet rhetorically says that even though death has taken away our loved one and our house is engulfed in sorrow, we should not be swayed away by grief and loose hope.

Yet Hope again elastic springs,

Unconquered, though she fell,

Still buoyant are her golden wings,

Still strong to bear us well.

The poet has personified Hope and says that Hope has elastic springs. It means that, just like elastic can stretch itself and just like when a spring is released it will jump all around, so also Hope stretches itself and jumps all around so that people can catch it. But alas! It was not conquered by anyone and so it fell. Its golden wings are still buoyant and strong. Though Hope has fallen, its golden wings that are buoyant and strong will help it bounce back. So we should never feel despair for Hope is there to guide and lift us up.

Manfully, fearlessly,

The day of trial bear,

For gloriously, victoriously,

Can courage quell despair!

In the final stanza the poet encourages us to be strong and fearless, for on the day of trial i.e. day of judgement ( in Christianity and Islam, it is the day of judgement when God will make His judgement about humanity) we all will be glorious and victorious and our courage will quell despair. We all will triumph!

Appreciation of Poem

1. Title: Life

2. Poet: Charlotte Bronte

3. Theme/Central idea: The poem encourages us to look at life with a positive attitude. It tells us to be optimistic and have the courage to persevere and we will overcome our difficulties and be victorious.

4. Rhyme Scheme: abcb in the first stanza, dede and so on in all the remaining stanzas.

5. Figure of Speech: ‘What though death at times steps in’. The figure of speech is Personification.

6. Special Feature/Implied meaning, etc.: This is a motivational and encouraging poem. The poet says that all our worries and grief is transient and which will be soon turn into pleasant and sunny moments.

7. Favourite lines: Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,

But these are transient all;

8. Why I like/don’t like the poem: I like the poem because it gives me the motivation and encouragement to persevere.

Answer the following question:

1. What do the sages say?

Ans. The sages say that life is not a dream.

2. What does the rain often foretell?

Ans. The rain foretells a pleasant day.

3. What should we do during joyful times in life?

Ans. During joyful times in our lives, we should enjoy it cheerfully and gratefully.

4. Who does ‘Our Best” refer to?

Ans. ‘Our Best’ refers to our loved one.

5. Why are the wings of hope ‘golden’?

Ans. The wings of Hope are golden because they are bright and strong to give us hope for the future.

Warming up

1. There are many popular lines like :-

‘Life is a game – play it well’.

‘Life is a journey- keep going ahead’.

Discuss and write down a few such metaphorical lines about ‘life’. You can make them up yourselves.

(1) Life is a dream, enjoy it.

(2) Life is ocean, dive deep.

(3) Life is music, hum it.

(4) Life is a challenge, accept it.

(5) Life is a teacher, learn from it.

2. Prepare as many ‘acrostics’ using the word LIFE, as you can.

Two examples are given below.

Live Liberty Love Live
In Integrity Inspires Inspire
Freedom Fraternity Frees Fascinate
Ever Equality Everyone Encourage

3. Listen carefully and write the word in the appropriate column.

Positive Feelings Negative Feelings
hopeful, happy, surprised, loving, proud, cheerful, anxious,  excited, comfortable, peaceful,  enthusiastic, motivated, inspired lonely, jealous, surprised, shy, anxious, nervous, embarrassed, scared, silly, depressed, threatened, crushed, angry

Teacher : hopeful, lonely, happy, jealous, surprised, shy, loving, proud, cheerful, anxious, nervous, excited, embarrassed, scared, silly, comfortable, peaceful, depressed, enthusiastic, motivated, inspired, threatened, crushed, angry.

Note that it is possible to feel both kinds of emotions at the same time. Have you experienced it? Try to describe the situation in short.

ENGLISH WORKSHOP

1. Pick out from the poem, two lines each that reflect an optimistic (positive) attitude and pessimistic (negative) attitude.

Optimism :

(1) Oft a little morning rain Foretells a pleasant day

(2) If the shower will make the roses bloom, Oh, why lament its fall?

Pessimism :

(1)  Sometimes there are clouds of gloom.

(2) What though Sorrow seems to win, O’er hope a heavy sway?

2. Give other ‘-ly’ adverbs of similar meaning for the following. Use a thesaurus if needed.

(a) rapidly  – swiftly or quickly

(b) merrily – cheerfully

(c) gratefully – thankfully

(d) cheerily – happily

(e) manfully – bravely or boldly

(f) fearlessly – courageously

(g) gloriously – wonderfully

(h) victoriously -successfully

3. Pick out three examples of interrogation (rhetorical questions) from the poem.

(a) Explain in your own words the point that each one makes.

Interrogation Explanation
(1) If the shower will make the roses bloom, Oh, why lament its fall ? If the showers make the roses bloom then we shouldn’t complain about the rainfall. So also if we have sadness and grief in our lives don’t worry as these will bring cheer and delight.
(2) What though death at times steps in, And calls our Best away? Even though death has taken away our loved one we should accept it.
(3) What though sorrow seems to win, O’er hope a heavy sway? Even though we are engulfed in sorrow, we should not be swayed away by grief and loose hope.  

(b) Explain the metaphor in the following lines:

(1) Oft a little morning rain Foretells a pleasant day

Ans. The morning rain is compared to sorrow and pleasant day to joy.

(2) Sometimes there are clouds

Ans. Clouds are compared to sadness

(3) … the shower will make the roses bloom

Ans. The roses are compared to good times.

(4) Life’s sunny hours flit by

Ans. Sunny hours are compared to happy moments.

(c) Pick out four examples of personification. Write what is personified in each :

Ans.

(1) Oft a little morning rain Foretells a pleasant day – Rain is personified and given the human quality of foretelling.

(2) Life’s sunny hours flit by – Sunny hours are personified and given the human quality of flitting by.

(3) What though death at times steps in – Death is personified and given the human quality of stepping in.

(4) What though Sorrow seems to win – Sorrow is personified and given the human quality of winning

(d) ‘And calls our Best away’ is a gentle way of expressing the unpleasant idea of a loved one dying. It is an example of euphemism. Think and write down 3 or 4 ways in which we can express the idea of ‘death’ in a tactful and gentle manner.

(1) He/She is no more

(2) He/She has gone to heaven

(3) He/She has passed away

(4) God has called him/her.

4. ‘….. and that’s how I realised that courage and hope can help me overcome any major mishap/problem in life.’ Write an episode / experience from your own life that leads to the above conclusion.

Ans. My friend, Rohan, had topped the 10th board exams in our school and I wanted to know how he had achieved it. So I approached him with the question. He sat me down and told me about an incident that was a life changer. I’m sure you too would like to know all about it. So this is his story.

Rohan, lives with his parents in Mumbai. His father, the only earning member of his family, works as a school bus driver, ferrying children from early morning till late evening. His mother is a homemaker. Though his father works hard, they found it very difficult to make ends meet with his meager salary. So, as a goodwill jester for his hard work, the Principal, Mr. Sharma admitted Rohan in their prestigious school, free of cost.

Their happiness knew no bounds. They had a lot of expectations from Rohan. They wanted him to study hard, get a corporate job and live a life of comfort. They would pressurize him to always excel in school. If he scored less marks or did not stand first in class, he was reprimanded and insulted at home. To avoid this humiliation, Rohan started adopting all kinds of false methods to score high grades.

Last year, when he was in class IX, he was caught cheating by his Math teacher. He was taken to the Principal’s office. Mr. Sharma recognized him and immediately called for his father. Burning with rage, the Principal gave a piece of his mind to both father and son. As Mr. Sharma did not want Rohan to set a bad example to other students, he warned them that the next time this happens Rohan will have to leave school.

At home, Rohan’s parents were furious. They felt so ashamed and insulted by his behavior that they stopped talking to him altogether.

This incident was a turning point in Rohan’s life. He promised himself to work hard. From that day on, he devoted his time to study hard, often burning the candle at both ends. His efforts paid off and in class X, he was declared the topper of the school, scoring a whopping 97% marks.

He was felicitated in front of all the students. His parents too were called on the dais. What a proud moment it was for Rohan and his parents! With his dedication and perseverance he was able to win back his parent’s love and teachers’ respect. In conclusion, he said to me, “And that’s how I realised that courage and hope can help me overcome any major mishap/problem in life.”

5. Read : ‘The Psalm of Life’- a poem by H. W. Longfellow.

A Psalm of Life

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

   Life is but an empty dream!

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

   And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

   And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

   Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow

   Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

   And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

   Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

   In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

   Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

   Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,— act in the living Present!

   Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us

   We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

   Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,

   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

   Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,

   With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

   Learn to labor and to wait.

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