they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction

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Senior Member
The quotation comes from Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (Chap. 32) | Genius

Quotation: But courage! I will not pause either to accuse or repine. I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay: they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty and strength again one day. Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction.
Hi everyone! I’m puzzled by the bold sentence. I try to guess it as below. Is it correct?

Sordid => morally low; base; corrupt:
They (underlined) = poetry and genius = powerful angels.
Soul => a human being
Triumph => 3. b : to celebrate victory or success boastfully or exultingly [M-W dictionary]

The sentence => Poetry and genius have not died. They’ve elevated to heaven and become powerful angels who enjoy eternal life. They smile when morally low souls celebrated their victory over them, and feeble ones weep over their destruction.
  • Juhasz

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I am puzzled as well, mostly by "feeble ones weep over their destruction." I'm not sure who either the feeble ones or they are. Feeble ones could either be contrasted with powerful angles (as you say, poetry and genius), or with sordid souls (well, it wouldn't be a contrast, but a comparison). My best guess is that feeble people weep over the destruction of poetry and genius (which have not, in fact, been destroyed, and are only thought to be so by the feeble ones).


    Senior Member
    English but my first language was German
    I think that there is multiple suppression of repeated elements, some of it in reverse. We're used to suppressing repeated elements in the second clause, but in more literary periods it was possible to suppress a repeated element in the first clause while leaving it in the second one.

    My guess as to the meaning: they (the angels) smile when sordid souls triumph over the destruction of poetry and genius, and they (the angels) smile when feeble souls weep over the destruction of poetry and genius.

    They smile, as Juhasz says, because both the sordid souls and the feeble ones are wrong.

    EDIT: a comma after weep would make it clear that the meaning is as I suggest.
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