EMILY BRONTË'S POETRY
Poems by Currer, Ellis and Action
Bell, published in 1846 and paid for by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne,
contained twenty-one poems by Emily and by Anne and nineteen by
Charlotte. Despite the fact that it received two encouraging reviews,
only two copies were sold. Charlotte edited Emily's poems and rewrote
some for the 1850 edition of her sisters' poems and novels. She
included seventeen previously unpublished poems from Emily's
manuscripts and one poem not found in Emily's manuscript ("Often
rebuked, yet always back returning").
Emily Brontë has been called one
of the great English lyric poets and has found admirers among other
poets. Emily Dickinson thought so highly of Emily Brontë's poetry
that she chose "No coward soul" to be read at her funeral.
| High waving heather, 'neath stormy blasts
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man's spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.
All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending
One mighty voice to the life-giving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast through the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their waters extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.
Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.
| Riches I hold in light esteem
And Love I laugh to scorn
And lust of Fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn–
And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is–"Leave the heart that now I bear
And give me liberty."
Yes, as my swift days near their goal
'Tis all that I implore
Through life and death, a chainless soul
With courage to endure!
| On a sunny brae alone I lay
One summer afternoon;
It was the marriage-time of May
With her young lover, June.
From her Mother's heart seemed loath to part
That queen of bridal charms,
But her Father smiled on the fairest child
He ever held in his arms.
The trees did wave their plumy crests,
The glad birds carolled clear;
And I, of all the wedding guests,
Was only sullen there.
There was not one but wished to shun
My aspect void of cheer;
The very grey rocks, looking on,
Asked, "What do you do here?"
And I could utter no reply:
In sooth I did not know
Why I had brought a clouded eye
To greet the general glow.
So, resting on a heathy bank,
I took my heart to me;
And we together sadly sank
Into a reverie.
We thought, "When winter comes again
Where will these bright things be?
All vanished, like a vision vain,
An unreal mockery!
"The birds that now so blithely sing,
Through deserts frozen dry,
Poor spectres of the perished Spring
In famished troops will fly.
"And why should we be glad at all?
The leaf is hardly green,
Before a token of the fall
Is on its surface seen."
Now whether it were really so
I never could be sure-,
But as, in fit of peevish woe,
I stretched me on the moor,
A thousand thousand glancing fires
Seemed kindling in the air;
A thousand thousand silvery lyres
Resounded far and near:
Methought the very breath I breathed
Was full of sparks divine,
And all my heather-couch was wreathed
By that celestial shine.
And while the wide Earth echoing rang
To their strange minstrelsy,
The little glittering spirits sang,
Or seemed to sing, to me:
"0 mortal, mortal, let them die;
Let Time and Tears destroy,
That we may overflow the sky
With universal joy.
"Let Grief distract the sufferer's breast,
And Night obscure his way;
They hasten him to endless rest,
And everlasting day.
"To Thee the world is like a tomb,
A desert's naked shore;
To us, in unimagined bloom,
It brightens more and more.
"And could we lift the veil and give
One brief glimpse to thine eye
Thou would'st rejoice for those that live,
Because they live to die."
The music ceased-the noonday Dream
Like dream of night withdrew
But Fancy still will sometimes deem
Her fond creation true.
Emily personfies Imagination
physical presence separate from the individual in several poems,
including this one.
| 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
0 my true friend, I am not lone
While thou canst speak with such a tone!
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.
What matters it that all around
Danger and grief and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom's bound
We hold a bright unsullied sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?
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.
But thou art ever there to bring
The hovering visions 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.
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 brighter hope when hope despairs.
R. Alcona to J. Brenzaida
Cold in the earth, and the deep snow piled above
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my Only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time's all-wearing wave?
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains on Angora's shore;
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
That noble heart for ever, ever more?
Cold in the earth, and fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills have melted into spring--
Faithful indeed is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!
Sweet Love of youth, forgive if I forget thee
While the World's tide is bearing me along:
Sterner desires and darker hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure but cannot do thee wrong.
No other Sun has lightened up my heaven;
No other Star has ever shone for me:
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.
But when the days of golden dreams had perished
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened and fed without the aid of joy;
Then did I check the tears of useless passion,
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine!
And even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in Memory's rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?
The Gondal title of this poem was
"Rosina Alcona to Julius Brenzaida."
| Death, that struck when I was most confiding
In my certain Faith of joy to be,
Strike again, Time's withered branch dividing
From the fresh root of Eternity!
Leaves, upon Time's branch, were growing
Full of sap and full of silver dew;
Birds, beneath its shelter, gathered nightly;
Daily, round its flowers, the wild bees flew.
Sorrow passed and plucked the golden blossom,
Guilt stripped off the foliage in its pride;
But, within its parent's kindly bosom,
Flowed forever Life's restoring tide.
Little mourned I for the parted Gladness,
For the vacant nest and silent song;
Hope was there and laughed me out of sadness,
Whispering, "Winter will not linger long."
And behold, with tenfold increase blessing
Spring adorned the beauty-burdened spray;
Wind and rain and fervent heat caressing
Lavished glory on its second May.
High it rose; no winge'd grief could sweep it;
Sin was scared to distance with its shine:
Love and its own life had power to keep it
From all 'Wrong, from every blight but thine!
Heartless ' Death, the young leaves droop and
Evening's gentle air may still restore–
No: the morning sunshine mocks my anguish
Time for me must never blossom more!
Strike it down, that other boughs may flourish
Where that perished sapling used to be;
Thus, at least, its mouldering corpse will nourish
That from which it sprung-Eternity.
Heavy hangs the raindrop
From the burdened spray;
Heavy broods the damp mist
On Uplands far away;
Heavy looms the dull sky,
Heavy rolls the sea -
And heavy beats the young heart
Beneath that lonely Tree -
Never has a blue streak
Cleft the clouds since morn -
Never has his grim Fate
Smiled since he was born -
Frowning on the infant,
Shadowing childhood's joy;
Guardian angel knows not
That melancholy boy.
Day is passing swiftly
Its sad and sombre prime;
Youth is fast invading
Sterner manhood's time -
All the flowers are praying
For sun before they close,
And he prays too, unknowing,
That sunless human rose!
Blossoms, that the westwind
Has never wooed to blow,
Scentless are your petals,
Your dew as cold as snow -
Soul, where kindred kindness
No early promise woke,
Barren is your beauty
As weed upon the rock -
Wither, Brothers, wither,
You were vainly given -
Earth reserves no blessing
For the unblessed of Heaven!
Child of Delight! with sunbright hair
And seablue, sea-deep eyes;
Spirit of Bliss, what brings thee here,
Beneath these sullen skies?
Thou shouldest live in eternal spring,
Where endless day is never dim;
Why, seraph, has thy erring wing
Borne thee down to weep with him?
"Ah, not from heaven am I descended,
And I do not come to mingle tears;
But sweet is day though with shadows blended;
And, though clouded, sweet are youthful years -
I, the image of light and gladness,
Saw and pitied that mournful boy;
And I swore to take his gloomy sadness,
And give to him my beamy joy -
"Heavy and dark the night is closing;
Heavy and dark may its biding be;
Better for all from grief reposing,
And better for all who watch like me -
"Guardian angel, he lacks no longer;
Evil fortune he need not fear;
Fate is strong–but Love is stronger,
And more unsleeping than angel's care.
Charlotte Brontë wrote
"Never was better stuff penned." in the manuscript of this poem.
| How beautiful the Earth is still
To thee–how full of Happiness;
How little fraught with real ill
Or shadowy phantoms of distress;
How Spring can bring thee glory yet
And Summer win thee to forget
December's sullen time!
Why dost thou hold the treasure fast
Of youth's delight, when youth is past
And thou art near thy prime?
When those who were thy own compeers,
Equal in fortunes and in years,
Have seen their morning melt in tears,
To dull unlovely day;
Blest, had they died unproved and young
Before their hearts were wildly wrung,
Poor slaves, subdued by passions strong,
A weak and helpless prey!
"Because, I hoped while they enjoyed,
And by fulfilment, hope destroyed
As children hope, with trustful breast,
I waited Bliss and cherished Rest.
"A thoughtful Spirit taught me soon
That we must long till life be done;
That every phase of earthly joy
Will always fade and always cloy--
"This I foresaw, and would not chase
The fleeting treacheries,
But with firm foot and tranquil face
Held backward from the tempting race,
Gazed o'er the sands the waves efface
To the enduring seas–
"There cast my anchor of Desire
Deep in unknown Eternity;
Nor ever let my Spirit tire
With looking for What is to be.
"It is Hope's spell that glorifies
Like youth to my maturer eyes
All Nature's million mysteries--
The fearful and the fair–
"Hope soothes me in the griefs I know,
She lulls my pain for others' woe
And makes me strong to undergo
What I am born to bear.
"Glad comforter, will I not brave
Unawed the darkness of the grave?
Nay, smile to hear Death's billows rave,
My Guide, sustained by thee?
The more unjust seems present fate
The more my Spirit springs elate
Strong in thy strength, to anticipate
is part of a larger
Gondal poem which Emily revised for publication in 1846. She cut lines
1-12, 45-64, and 93-152. She added the concluding stanza, which starts
with "She ceased to speak..." The original title of the poem is "Julian
M. and A.G. Rochelle," the names of two lovers in the Gondal saga.
| In the dungeon crypts idly did I stray,
Reckless of the lives wasting there away;
"Draw the ponderous bars; open, Warder stern!"
He dare not say me nay–the hinges harshly turn.
"Our guests are darkly lodged," I whispered,
The vault whose grated eye showed heaven more grey than blue.
(This was when glad spring laughed in awaking pride.)
"Aye, darkly lodged enough!" returned my sullen guide.
Then, God forgive my youth, forgive my careless
I scoffed, as the chill chains on the damp flagstones rung;
"Confined in triple walls, art thou so much to fear,
That we must bind thee down and clench thy fetters here?"
The captive raised her face; it was as soft and
As sculptured marble saint or slumbering, unweaned child;
It was so soft and mild, it was so sweet and fair,
Pain could not trace a line nor grief a shadow there!
The captive raised her hand and pressed it to her
"I have been struck," she said, "and I am suffering now;
Yet these are little worth, your bolts and irons strong;
And were they forged in steel they could not hold me long."
Hoarse laughed the jailor grim: "Shall I be won
Dost think, fond dreaming wretch, that I shall grant thy prayer?
Or, better still, wilt melt my master's heart with groans?
Ah, sooner might the sun thaw down these granite stones!
"My master's voice is low, his aspect bland and
But hard as hardest flint the soul that lurks behind;
And I am rough and rude, yet not more rough to see
Than is the hidden ghost which has its home in me!
About her lips there played a smile of almost
"My friend," she gently said, "you have not heard me mourn;
When you my parents' lives-my lost life, can restore,
Then may I weep and sue-but never, Friend, before!"
"Yet, tell them, Julian, all, I am not doomed to
Year after year in gloom and desolate despair;
A messenger of Hope comes every night to me,
And offers, for short life, eternal liberty.
He comes with western winds, with evening's
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars;
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire, And visions rise
and change which kill me with desire–
"Desire for nothing known in my maturer years
When joy grew mad with awe at counting future tears;
When, if my spirit's sky was full of flashes warm,
I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunderstorm;
"But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast-unuttered harmony
That I could never dream till earth was lost to me.
"Then dawns the Invisible, the Unseen its truth
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels
Its wings are almost free, its home, its harbour found;
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound!
"Oh, dreadful is the check-intense the agony
When the ear begins to hear and the eye begins to see;
When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again,
The soul to feel the flesh and the flesh to feel the chain!
"Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture
The more that anguish racks the earlier it will bless;
And robed in fires of Hell, or bright with heavenly shine,
If it but herald Death, the vision is divine."
She ceased to speak, and we, unanswering turned
We had no further power to work the captive woe;
Her cheek, he gleaming eye, declared that man had given
A sentence unapproved, and overruled by Heaven.
poem is part of the same
Gondal poem from which Emily carved "The Prisoner. A Fragment."
Charlotte Brontë took lines 1-12 of Emily's original poem, "Julian
M. and A.G Rochelle," and added 8 lines of her own. Thus,
the positive ending in which the watcher has a spiritual experience is
Charlotte's and the watcher may be seen as Emily rather than a Gondal
character. In Charlotte's version, it is hard to explain the guiding
light in the window of stanze 2.
| Silent is the House-all are laid asleep;
One, alone, looks out o'er the snow wreaths deep;
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the 'wildering drifts and bends the groaning trees.
Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far;
I trim it well to be the Wanderer's guiding-star.
Frown, my haughty sire; chide, my angry dame;
Set your slaves to spy, threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know
What angel nightly tracks that waste of winter snow.
What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
Who loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.
Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.
Charlotte Brontë notes, "The
following are the last lines my sister Emily ever wrote."
| No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
0 God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though Earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.
Often rebuked, yet always back returning
Bloom calls this Emily
Brontë's finest poem; however, C.W. Hatfield, who edited her
poems, speculates that Charlotte wrote or revised this poem. It first
appeared in the 1850 edition of Emily's novel and poems; no manuscript
version of this poem is known.
| Often rebuked, yet always back returning
To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
For idle dreams of things which cannot be:
To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region;
Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.
I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the gray flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side
What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.
Brontë: Table of Contents
March 22, 2009