A Solemn Passion

Now we are in the complex, emotionally harrowing chapter 27, which follows the collapse of the wedding and the revelation of Bertha Mason. Rochester narrates the story of his marriage and reaffirms his love for Jane:

After a youth and manhood, passed half in unutterable misery and half in dreary solitude, I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel—I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.

Jane accepts that this is true love (‘not a human being that ever lived could wish to be loved better than I was loved’), and forgives Rochester for his deception of her; and yet she is clear that she cannot stay with him, and leaves Thornfield in agony of heart.

This is the consummation of all the uses of ‘passion’ hitherto: here, ‘passion’ appears in its most positive light, as a power leading to good, yet it is also connected to the darker senses (suffering, anger, stubbornness) that have appeared in our earlier examples. Rochester’s phrasing (‘a fervent, a solemn … conceived in my heart’) pushes those other connotations away (this is the good kind of passion, he wants to assert); and yet, in doing so, he cannot but acknowledge that they exist.

In the translations into European languages, similar phrasing is used to similar effect:  as you can see below, the Italian and Russian translations reveal the ‘shadow texts’, the cluster of related words, that hover around Rochester’s adjectives ‘fervent’ and ‘solemn’ and feed into their signification even though they are not visibly written in the English.

The Arabic and Persian translations, in contrast, both reach for different nouns than those that have been used for our earlier instances of ‘passion’, continuing their work of rendering Brontë’s word into a varied vocabulary. As Kayvan Tahmasebian comments, the Persian word ‘hāl’, used by Reza Reza’i (Pe2010), ‘has a wide range of meanings. Primarily, it denotes the present time. It is also used in reference to one’s own state, how one feels. Its other meanings are “adventure”, “great pleasure”, “jouissance”.’ Those kinds of intensity all seem appropriate here.

List of translations quoted.

Text and animation by Matthew Reynolds, incorporating research by Eugenia Kelbert, Kayvan Tahmasebian, Ida Klitgård, Ulrich Timme Kragh, Matthew Reynolds, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, Jernej Habjan.