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The Poems of Emily Bronte introduced by Charlotte Mew and Charlotte Bronte

The Poems of Emily Bronte

introduced by Charlotte Mew - (1904)

To those who, holding dear, have formed for themselves any conception of that great genius who died "between the finishing of labour and the award of praise" the works of Emily Bronte must be chiefly interesting as the record of a unique and in some senses, an appalling personality: and it is undeniable that to the majority of those readers to whom she is but casually known, this personality - one of the most remarkable in the history of modern literature - presents itself as repugnant and distasteful.

"Mind", says Mr Pater, "we cannot choose but approve when we recognize it: soul may repel us and not because we misunderstand it." But it is possible that here is a soul which has most repelled where least it has been understood.

It is mainly upon Wuthering Heights that Emily Bronte's reputation as a great artist and a repulsive woman has been built :   her poems - which in part supply its key and commentary - are a truer revelation of her veritable self than that grim and matchless tragedy, by which she is too exclusively known and upon which, perforce, her fame must rest. The note of violence which in a measure disfigures, and yet in a measure enhances and always triumphantly fails to weaken, the passion of Wuthering Heights is absent from the author's poems - as it would probably have been absent from her later work. In that dreadful and incomparable story she was testing her powers, she had not altogether gauged them. They were, at the outset, perhaps too much for her, and overwhelmed a mind, which young in waking could not confine and comprehend itself. Swept forward by the oncoming and strong current of her genius, she was, in the first rush of it, somewhat borne away; so strongly that we too are borne along with it, forgiving the impetuosity and turbid tumult of that stream.

Charlotte has urged, in vindication of a violence she might not dismiss and could not altogether explain, that "the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master". But that ultimately Emily must have been master of any gift she did possess, it is hardly possible to doubt. The evidence of her poems goes far to show that, in time, she would have discarded the unchecked vehemence of immaturity for a vigour more intrinsic and appealing. Her last lines - the dignity and grandeur of which it is hardly possible to overestimate - remind us that she was outgrowing her mighty childhood - that within sight of eternity the fruit of time was ripening fast.

It seems little matter for regret that no reliable likeness of Emily exists, that our mental presentment is not marred by any inefficient, dubious print, that we are bound to construct one for ourselves solely from the masterly notes with which Charlotte has furnished us in the prefaces to Wuthering Heights and the Posthumous Poems and from the suggestive study for which Miss Robinson is responsible.

But the true - the one original likeness, Emily herself has sketched: it is outlined in these slim pages of neglected verse. The eyes that watched unweariedly to find "how very far the morning lies away"; the "chainless soul", the "quenchless will", the "savage heart", and the "resentful mood" are mirrored here.

Throughout her work, to those who look for them, sweeter and lighter fancies peer like stars between the masses of dark cloud from clearer rifts of sky. True, that these far-hung lights are few, but here the vault from which they gleam is loftier, and shows behind its hovering grey a promise of serener blue. It is then to these few, many of them halting and imperfect verses, that we must turn if we are to judge rightly of the writer. They are illuminative footnotes to the fragmentary history of that tragic, heroic and majestic soul, which walked unswervingly with Truth, viewed failure with sublime serenity, and tried conclusions with the mightiest powers that beset mankind.

Emily was essentially a poet, and it is by poets that she has been severally recognized, interpreted and portrayed. "The pure note of absolutely right expression for things inexpressible in full by prose," says Swinburne, "Emily had for birthright", and Matthew Arnold wrote her elegy "who sank baffled, unknown-self-consumed".

Wuthering Heights, which is pre-eminently the achievement of a poet, has been not unfitly termed the "nightmare of a recluse", and these poems may well be called day-dreams-wonderful, awful dreams indeed-in their simple but compelling passion, their self-reliance and restraint, their concentrated force and purity. In form and structure they are curiously deficient, lacking for the most part the instinctive grandeur and simplicity of style which marks the prose of Wuthering Heights; and it is evident that Emily had never set herself to master the art which would have clothed them fittingly, matching with certainty of rhythm their majesty of thought. They were written secretly - without thought of publication, not destined by their author to challenge or invite critical consideration. These strange self-communings took shape in intervals of leisure, snatched from prosaic but determined work. Perhaps in the northern twilight of the Haworth kitchen with 'Tabby' knitting by the dying fire. Perhaps in greyer, lonelier dawns, when Emily rose early to the self - appointed labours of the day. For it is notable that this woman, who owned above most women the "inestimable gift of genius", was one who laid upon herself the simplest duties; that in that poor and Spartan [358] country parsonage it was Emily who, when need came, rose in the bitter winter mornings to do the disabled servant's work, who conned her German across the pastry board, and cooked and cleaned "as if", says her biographer,

"she had no other aim in view than the providing for the day's comfort. Of Emily's deeper self, her violent genius, neither friend nor neighbour dreamed in those days. And today it is only this Emily who is remembered."

This is not, however, the place to dwell upon the homelier and lovelier side of that extraordinary character; it has been set forth elsewhere by competent and reverent hands. It is with the darker and deeper aspect of it that we have to do in dealing with these poems, with the spiritual and mysterious self, which they so prominently illumine. Over this figure - hardly human in its self-sufficiency and aloofness, and yet more than human in its compassionate gentleness for the doomed and erring - they cast an unmistakable - almost unearthly light: showing a soul which scorns the world with masterful persistence and disclaims all comradeship save that of the "strange visitants of air", to itself so magically allied. For from the world and her fellows, Emily Bronte was perhaps one of nature's outcasts - a self-determined outlaw, whose indomitable spirit "even despair", the possible outcome of her instinctive isolation, was "powerless to destroy".

The earth - her passionate and only love - was peopled for her by spirits of storm and cloud, of sun and darkness. These were the sole companions of those boding or ministering spirits within her soul. Fancy - that "fairy love" - was her chosen playfellow and perhaps the only child she ever knew. Seldom, if ever, seeking intercourse with those around her, and impervious to the influence of other minds, she was mainly dependent on the material her own imagination could supply. Throughout these ideal and impersonal lyrics the individual note is everywhere discernible. They are melodies, rather than harmonies, many of a haunting and piercing sweetness, instinct with a sweeping and mournful music peculiarly her own.

Everywhere too, the note of pure passion is predominant, a passion untouched by mortality and unappropriated by sex - the passion of angels, of spirits, redeemed or fallen - if such there be. Rarely does any tranquil or tender human trait soften the brilliance of these strange imaginative pictures or relieve their gloom. Through the mist and sorrow of an ever-unsatisfied desire, she looked out upon the world, which the sad circumstances of her environment, together with the gloomy bias of her nature, showed so dark, with a curious indifference and mistrust. "An interpreter", says Charlotte, "should always have stood between her and the world"; but human intervention she would never have endured. It was rather a divine interpreter, which all through life her [359] ardent spirit beat its wings to reach and strained its eyes to see. For the "spirit-seer" who should make intelligible the awful chaos of existence and lighten its remorseless darkness, she had "watched and sought" her "life-time long".

In the dialogue entitled The Philosopher she utters the conclusive confession of her useless search:

Had I but seen his glorious eye
Once light the clouds that wilder me;
I ne'er had raised this coward cry
To cease to think, and cease to be;
I ne'er had called oblivion blest,
Nor stretching eager hands to death,
Implored to change for senseless rest
This sentient soul, this living breath -
Oh, let me die-that power and will
Their cruel strife may close;
And conquered good and conquering ill
Be lost in one repose.

This remarkable if somewhat incoherent poem is perhaps the most original, as it is certainly the finest in thought and conception of all her poems. It asks and answers most distinctly the dominant question, and reveals the intellectual tragedy of her life.

The thought of the pre-eminence of evil, of "conquered good and conquering ill" with which it closes, is the text and motive of Wuthering Heights. And "lost in one repose" she leaves the chief actors in that awful tale, awful - not so much in the consideration of the frenzied passions which it delineates, as in the general scheme which shows evil proceeding out of good as though it were indeed a natural outcome.

There, as in these verses, death is recognized as the one benignant power; the friend whose sad but unreproachable eyes greet alike kindly, good, and evil-comers-upon whose broad and pulseless breast the day of weeping ends. Edgar, the gentle, faithful husband, sleeps no more peacefully than the two wild lovers by his side. There can be -it is her final word- "no unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

Death solves and absolves all - it is rest; and the resolution of discordance: there is no sense of the mystery beyond, of judgement to follow; it holds only - to quote a passage from that work whose horrors have been so faithfully remembered while its beauties are frequently passed by -

"a repose that neither earth nor hell can break - an assurance of the endless and shadowless hereafter - where life is boundless in its duration, and love in its sympathy, and joy in its fulness."

It brought no terror to this girl, who mused habitually upon facts [360] and mysteries more terrible. It was no problem, because it was the end of problems; it scarcely meant obscurity to the soul thrust back relentlessly upon itself for light.

The Prisoner, a very unequal fragment, ambitious in conception, but weak and disjointed in execution, closes with an utterance as passionate and individual as that with which 'The Philosopher' ends.

Then dawns the Invisible; the unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels:
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.

[ "What irks me most is this shattered prison," says Cathy, dying, but the speech is Emily's - "I'm tired of being enclosed here; I'm wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there; not seeing it through tears, the yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart." ]

Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less;
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!

The titles of these two poems are transparent pseudonyms for the author, and perhaps the sense of captivity underlies the utterances of The Philosopher most definitely, while the philosophic spirit, which was notably Emily's own, finds its expression in the latter poem. Of the hymns or invocations to imagination variously styled To Imagination - Plead for Me - My Comforter, and How Clear She Shines, the last named concludes with some burning and vigorous lines, summing up Emily's estimate of life with bitter intensity.

The spectacle here presented is one of trackless starless darkness, where images of perverted truth, wisdom and virtue seem to sweep like malignant meteors across a sullen and unlifting sky. This distorted picture may well appal the reader when he remembers that to the lonely brooding girl it was an actual and familiar scene. Vividly, insistently, as these dread visions are set before us, it is difficult to realize what existence was for her to whom they were the substance from which her thought took shape. Turning in recoil from such a conception of reality, two other worlds absorbed her gaze - the very intensity of which obscured her vision; worlds both bounded by her own "space-sweeping soul".

From another noticeable address to imagination - headed My Comforter, this declaration looms out lurid and convincing:

So stood I, in Heaven's glorious sun,
And in the glare of Hell;
My spirit drank a mingled tone,
Of seraph's song, and demon's moan,
What my soul bore, my soul alone
Within itself can tell!

And of that "mingled tone", the note of hell rang ominously clear. Such conflicting voices were always audible; she was always listening to something akin to the great Tannhauser overture, while the mighty deities of Death and Time stood by. Watching and listening thus, her spirit undismayed maintained its steadfast struggling independence; and with the vision of the unseen ever before her, sorrow and guilt took shape - came into nearer view - "passed by and plucked the golden blossom" of earthly hope and earthly promise. "I waited bliss", she cries, "and cherished rest."

The world counted for nothing; all it could offer she passed passionately yet coldly by. Riches and fame and love - such undesired futilities were things for which she watched weak mortals strive with distant pitying disdain. Hardly born for earth, she seemed to peer beyond it - craving a clearer vision than it yielded - crying for liberty as only captives cry - appealing strenuously "from tyranny to God".

Suffering and slavery were the great facts and despots of existence; and of suffering she had known enough, but hers was a nature which it could neither chasten nor subdue - it might but stir to rebellion one to whom submission was unknown. The only slavery known to her was a slavery to her own tameless and inexorable spirit; no alien power could have proved so obdurate and pitiless as was this being to itself.

Body and soul were fitly mated. The hand which applied the searing remedy to its own wounded flesh, and the hand which wrote these lines were truly one:

No promised heaven, these wild desires
Could all, or half fulfil;
No threatened hell, with quenchless fires,
Subdue this quenchless will!

It was with the face of a pagan warrior that she confronted life and met death. A pagan above all she was: the centuries of revelation behind her seem not to have won a glance of question or of recognition; Christianity, taking its place with "the thousand creeds that move men's hearts", must have been found with them "unutterably vain", nor does she even momentarily seem to turn from the sin and suffering of humanity to the picture of a suffering but sinless God. Indeed the religion of meditation and sacrament and self-surrender could never have won a possible assent from one who shunned so resolutely the common pledges and submissions of daily life. Only in [362] her infinite forbearance with, and compassion for the victims of weakness and vanity and passion, does she touch that eternally uplifted figure which hangs between earth and heaven to link inseparably the human with the divine. We cannot but remember that it was not Charlotte, but the pagan Emily, who to the last protected and forgave the sorry wreck who, once the pride, had come to be the terror of their home. It was she who achieved his epitaph wherein we read, almost amazed, the plea for weakness penned by one who so accounted strength:

Then "Bless the friendly dust," I said,
"That hides thy unlamented head."
Vain as thou wert and weak as vain,
The slave of Falsehood, Pride and Pain-
My heart has nought akin to thine;
Thy soul is powerless over mine-
But these were thoughts that vanished too;
Unwise, unholy and untrue.

Revulsion ends in prayer and pity, and "Kind Heaven" is to "grant that spirit rest".

Throughout these poems there is not one plea for joy, as there is hardly a hint that life can hold it; the sole prayer is for endurance, the sole hope lies in the mind from which it springs. Forced back upon the witness of her own soul for God, she lived and died a solitary, dauntless, sightless spirit, turning toward the day and sending forth the voice and vision of the night.

Permitted no revelation, offered no certainty, but desiring both, the mind is called upon to sanction the worship of which it is itself the deity:

And am I wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt, nor hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of visions, plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen Thee!

There was for her no other choice-no alternative vision, and yet the impotence of her own mighty, but not almighty, spirit to dissipate the darkness of the disordered universe, to mitigate its pain, was ever present to her consciousness, and impotence to such a mind was a lash from which nothing could take the sting.

In Self-Interrogation she thus reviews the past - questions the future:

The vanished day? It leaves a sense
Of labour hardly done;
Of little gained with vast expense -
A sense of grief alone!
Well, thou hast fought for many a year,
Hast fought thy whole life through,
Hast humbled Falsehood, trampled Fear;
What is there left to do?

The third and fourth verses of the same poem exhibit the writer's power of vivid personification:

Time stands before the door of Death,
Upbraiding bitterly;
And Conscience, with exhaustless breath,
Pours black reproach on me:
And though I've said that Conscience lies
And Time should Fate condemn;
Still, sad Repentance clouds my eyes,
And makes me yield to them!

The massive figures of Time and Death - two familiar deities - stand visibly before us, and we are confronted by a picture that Watts might well have painted: abstractions take shape and force themselves upon our vision almost before they can arrest our thought.

In the fine imagery of Death, this quality again is manifest. Emily had the power of presenting images and impressions of a convincing reality with a neglect or disdain of detail, which displays the pure imaginative quality of her work. Scenes and moods and thoughts are flashed upon our consciousness, we know not how; their terror, or delicacy, or beauty, is surely indicated, yet never obviously drawn - she calls up spirits with a spirit's hand.

It is said that her genius was masculine, but surely it was purely spiritual, strangely and exquisitely severed from embodiment and freed from any accident of sex. Never perhaps has passion been portrayed as she portrayed it - wayward and wild as storm, but pure as fire, as incorruptible as life's own essence - deathless in the face of death. And nature is presented to us by the same unerring hand. Sublime, fantastic, are the scenes she puts before us, magically true - unmarred by any alien element - living as nature lives, set in no human frame.

The sense of colour too is here and there importunate.

In Stars we pause arrested by the lines: "Blood-red he rose, and, arrow-straight/His fierce beams struck my brow." Strongly the splendour reaches us-seems unsurpassable, but turning to the page again it spreads and deepens with-

My lids closed down, yet through their veil
I saw him blazing still,
And steep in gold the misty dale,
And flash upon the hill.

The colour symbolism in The Philosopher is one of subtle beauty and significance. The Day-dream leads us through a maze of colour - half-earthly, half-celestial, and wholly brilliant as the tints which dart across the vividly remembered phases of a sensitive waking dream.

The following verse of the Death-scene brings-and now, with scarcely one aid to actual sight - the shifting hues of luminous twilight into view:

Paled, at length, the sweet sun setting
Sunk to peace the twilight breeze:
Summer dews fell softly, wetting
Glen, and glade, and silent trees.

The music here perhaps calls up the vision, and merged, they form one of the loveliest pictures Emily has drawn, and the last three verses are among the most poignant and appealing she ever wrote.

Then his eyes began to weary,
Weighed beneath a mortal sleep;
And their orbs grew strangely dreary,
Clouded, even as they would weep.

But they wept not, but they changed not,
Never moved and never closed;
Troubled still, and still they ranged not,
Wandered not, nor yet reposed!

So I knew that he was dying,
Stooped, and raised his languid head;
Felt no breath and heard no sighing,
So I knew that he was dead.

Throughout the poems colour and thought and music move, mournfully blent, haunting the mind and leaving it at last unable to determine whether most poignantly it heard, or felt, or saw.

When first we listen to these songs, we are brought face to face with the woman who wrote them - we must remember who the singer is. When once we know them and have been haunted by their rebellious and contending music it will not be possible to forget. It will then be difficult to appraise them dispassionately, to single out here a lyric for appreciation, or there to critically discard some halting and imperfect piece. They will stand for the most part as a whole - the consistent, successive utterance of a soul whose claim to our admiration or regard we must emphatically accept or deny.

In a book of selections, such lyrics as Death - The Visionary - Hope, and the exquisite Remembrance would properly find their place, but to meet them isolated thus for the first time would be to miss their real significance. To come upon such a poem as Remembrance, without the knowledge that its author knew absolutely [365] nothing of the passion which breathes and burns in every line, would be to lose the apprehension of the artistic power of a writer who touched the unknown with such an unfaltering hand. Here Emily sounds, for the first and last time, the depths of human anguish; painting, with a profound and poignant power, the picture of surviving life stationed stern and unswaying before the spectacle of murdered joy.

The two most prominent women poets of the century, Mrs Browning and Christina Rossetti, among whose writings passion, exotic or mystical, plays so conspicuous a part, have never surpassed, if they have ever equalled, this love-song of a woman who never loved. It is Emily's only recognition of that feeling which, for most women, colours and transfigures and embraces life. We feel that she alone could have thus presented it, while yet remembering how elsewhere with her own severe and serious certainty she wrote such lines as these:

Mirth is but a mad beguiling
Of the golden-gifted time:
Love-a demon-meteor, wiling
Heedless feet to gulfs of crime

It is interesting to contrast the restrained but burning constancy of the feeling which Remembrance portrays, with that of the hero of Wuthering Heights. It has all the tenacity - the desperate vigour of his passion without its feverish ferocity, and suggests that Emily could, when she chose, exchange the awful for the sublime. Full of a grand and sweeping music, true to the deepest and gravest passion, it ranks among the two or three of her poems which are indubitably great.

The Death Scene - despite the weakness of the opening verses - a picture of moving and pathetic beauty, is the poem which least reflects the personality of the writer. The mute protest of the dying lover, which serves to check the distracting remonstrance of the living, is a fine dramatic touch; and the last four verses invite comparison with those on a similar theme by another now unnoticed poet. Hood's 'Death-Bed' is perfect in construction and very different in conception, but in both these poems truth and pathos meet. The quietude of resignation and the more awful stillness of despair are each convincingly portrayed, but Emily's scene of human ending - in spite of its technical defects - is the one of surpassing loveliness and power.

The song beginning "The linnet in the rocky dells" - a musical and lovely dirge - contains one characteristic verse:

Well, let them fight for honour's breath
Or pleasure's shade pursue-
The dweller in the land of death
Is changed and careless too

Changed to all "fleeting treacheries", careless of all the poor pursuits of earth, in that "land where all things are forgotten", to Emily must any liberated spirit be. Nature alone might be remembered - its voice regarded - its whispering solace heard. Nature, the one subduing and consolatory power, she worshipped with all the intense and concentrated passion of her soul. It was a guardian - a lover, from which if she were wrested she must die. The "dim moon struggling in the sky" kept welcome watch with her; the stars departing left a "desert sky". With them she says:

I was at peace, and drank your beams
As they were life to me;
And revelled in my changeful dreams,
Like petrel on the sea.

Thought followed thought, star followed star,
Through boundless regions, on;
While one sweet influence, near and far,
Thrilled through and proved us one!

Human sympathy she never sought, and love she "laughed to scorn", but the "nightly stars", the "silent dew", the sun that "gilds the morning" - these were the "best beloved of years", the guardians against an ever-threatening despair. Nature under all aspects greeted her always with a face of tireless beauty, a breast of wide-sufficing rest. The motherhood of earth for her children - the love of death for its own, such communion she could taste and understand. One held the liberty for which she panted, and one the rest towards which she leaned; and both surveyed, unmoved as she, the trivial prizes for which men strive and die.

In lines which recall one of Byron's well-known stanzas, she mourns in exile the "fields of home", as he the purity and freshness of a departed youth. The thought of the stunted heather on her beloved moors evokes this outburst:

-not the loved music, whose waking
Makes the soul of the Swiss die away,
Has a spell more adored and heart-breaking
Than, for me, in that blighted heath lay.

The spirit which bent 'neath its power
How it longed-how it burned to be free!
If I could have wept in that hour Those tears had been heaven to me.

The first six of the posthumous poems, from one of which these verses are taken, are clumsy and youthful compositions, but through them the dominant adoration of her life finds some inadequate expression. They speak her strong and unappeasable yearning for the things which alone she loved and loved so well.

"My sister Emily", wrote Charlotte, "loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hillside her mind could make an Eden."

She had to admit one power before which her tameless spirit knelt in "Fond idolatry", and so she puts this plea into the voice of the spirit of wind and sun and sky:

Few hearts to mortals given,
On earth so wildly pine,
Yet few would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.

This later selection notably includes the famous Last Lines and the five stanzas beginning "Often rebuked, yet always back returning", the last two of which contain the essence of her personal philosophy.

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey 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.

Of her two greatest and best-known poems-the Old Stoic and Last Lines, it is hardly necessary to speak. They are familiar to all students of English literature, and the latter stands alone and unsurpassed for depth and gravity, for passionate and lofty strength.

"No last words", says Swinburne, "of poet or hero, or sage or saint, were ever worthy of longer and more reverent remembrance than that appeal which is so far above and beyond a prayer to the indestructible God within herself."

On that alone might have rested her claim to fame.

But a more blessed fate than that of fame awaited her. Death snatched her early, kindly, from a life which must have been to the end, it seems, thwarted and overcast. And in the near light of its approach, she perceived it clearly no longer as a friend to welcome, but as a last enemy to overthrow. She met its challenge, and being born for conquest, overcame. There was "Not room for Death, Nor atom that his might could render void." "While physically she perished, mentally she grew stronger than we had yet known her", Charlotte affirmed, relating the details of he-r sister's ending, with a truth and beauty of expression which she has never reached elsewhere: "Day by day when I saw with what a front she met suffering I looked on her with an anguish of wonder and love. I have seen nothing like it; but indeed I have never seen her parallel in [368] anything. Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone."

Her nature stood alone. That was the awful fact - the tragedy of her life. Alone in its negation of all that other mortals hold most dear; alone in its unwavering pity for frailty and error - no touch of which could ever mar the righteousness and vigour of this one woman's heart; alone in suffering and achievement; in the dark uncompanioned vigils of its life and the triumphant conflict of its death. It seems almost as if she must stand thus alone for ever - on that "other side of silence"; not framed for bliss, and yet too strong for an eternity of groping torment, alien alike to spirits lost and blest. Rather, resolved into the elements she worshipped, she seems to find her immortality, transmuted, given back to earth again. Her spirit - one with the keen and searching airs that sweep wildly and sweetly over the wastes she loved - finds rest, and liberty, and wandering peace.

Strong to act and think and feel in the narrow channels prescribed for her by dreary circumstance and a despotic temperament, she was yet beset by a weakness that comes of undiverted strength. Her resolute rejection of human interest and sympathy intensified her suffering and in a measure nullified her powers. She possessed a force of passion and vision not given to any of her countrywomen who have spoken widely to the world; and yet she speaks and can speak only to a few scattered hearers - to those to whom she is, in some strange and far-off fashion, personally dear.

For few will find it in their hearts to love this passionate child of storm and cloud: hers was a nature slow to attract; swift to dismay: but those who do, will love her with something of her own intensity, her own unfitful fire, and with that constancy which, it has been pointed out, is a quality with which nearly all her characters or personifications are endowed. "She died", it was said, "in a time of promise"; and if she had "only lived!" cried those who, noting the immaturities and deficiencies of her always inspired but imperfect work, imagined a glorious future for one who never let her "spirit tire with looking for what is to be".

But we, surveying that life "in all things troubled and taintless", foreseeing the certain sorrow, the possible failure of its future, reviewing the defeat and anguish of its past - find the cry stifled on our lips: and silence takes the place of speech as we remember that she lived long enough to lift such a cry for liberty as few women have ever lifted: to give a brief but sufficient utterance to the soul

          whose calm intensity
Glared sunless on the passion sun that blinds

and to die as she had lived boldly confronting, and at the last defying, [369] death - crying there was "not room" for it - making no way.

Wuthering Heights, said Sydney Dobell, who was the first to claim it for immortality, displayed the "unformed writing of a giant-hand, and the large utterance of a baby-god". Fragments of that large utterance - imperfect characters traced by that giant-hand are set before us in these lyrics. With the exception of a few weak and early pieces, there is hardly one which does not display some sombre and startling beauty - some burning thought or delicate ray of fancy - some fine image or reflection. Unique in their originality, sincerity and force, they have rested alone and almost unnoticed in the lumber room of literature: it is time the dust was shaken from them; that they stood forth to speak for themselves and their creator in unflinching tones.

They cannot attract the casual reader; they must assuredly dispense with popularity, and possibly with widespread recognition - but they will live in the mind of that finer company with whom "remembrance makes fame".


Faith and Despondency

"The winter wind is loud and wild,
Come close to me, my darling child;
Forsake thy books, and mateless play;
And, while the night is gathering gray,
We'll talk its pensive hours away;--

"Ierne, round our sheltered hall
November's gusts unheeded call;
Not one faint breath can enter here
Enough to wave my daughter's hair,
And I am glad to watch the blaze
Glance from her eyes, with mimic rays;
To feel her cheek, so softly pressed,
In happy quiet on my breast,

"But, yet, even this tranquillity
Brings bitter, restless thoughts to me;
And, in the red fire's cheerful glow,
I think of deep glens, blocked with snow;
I dream of moor, and misty hill,
Where evening closes dark and chill;
For, lone, among the mountains cold,
Lie those that I have loved of old.
And my heart aches, in hopeless pain,
Exhausted with repinings vain,
That I shall greet them ne'er again!"

"Father, in early infancy,
When you were far beyond the sea,
Such thoughts were tyrants over me!
I often sat, for hours together,
Through the long nights of angry weather,
Raised on my pillow, to descry
The dim moon struggling in the sky;
Or, with strained ear, to catch the shock,
Of rock with wave, and wave with rock;
So would I fearful vigil keep,
And, all for listening, never sleep.
But this world's life has much to dread,
Not so, my Father, with the dead.

"Oh! not for them, should we despair,
The grave is drear, but they are not there;
Their dust is mingled with the sod,
Their happy souls are gone to God!
You told me this, and yet you sigh,
And murmur that your friends must die.
Ah! my dear father, tell me why?
For, if your former words were true,
How useless would such sorrow be;
As wise, to mourn the seed which grew
Unnoticed on its parent tree,
Because it fell in fertile earth,
And sprang up to a glorious birth--
Struck deep its root, and lifted high
Its green boughs in the breezy sky.

"But, I'll not fear, I will not weep
For those whose bodies rest in sleep,--
I know there is a blessed shore,
Opening its ports for me and mine;
And, gazing Time's wide waters o'er,
I weary for that land divine,
Where we were born, where you and I
Shall meet our dearest, when we die;
From suffering and corruption free,
Restored into the Deity."

"Well hast thou spoken, sweet, trustful child!
And wiser than thy sire;
And worldly tempests, raging wild,
Shall strengthen thy desire -
Thy fervent hope, through storm and foam,
Through wind and ocean's roar,
To reach, at last, the eternal home,
The steadfast, changeless shore!"


Ah! why, because the dazzling sun
Restored our Earth to joy,
Have you departed, every one,
And left a desert sky?

All through the night, your glorious eyes
Were gazing down in mine,
And, with a full heart's thankful sighs,
I blessed that watch divine.

I was at peace, and drank your beams
As they were life to me;
And revelled in my changeful dreams,
Like petrel on the sea.

Thought followed thought, star followed star,
Through boundless regions, on;
While one sweet influence, near and far,
Thrilled through, and proved us one!

Why did the morning dawn to break
So great, so pure, a spell;
And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek,
Where your cool radiance fell?

Blood-red, he rose, and, arrow-straight,
His fierce beams struck my brow;
The soul of nature sprang, elate,
But mine sank sad and low!

My lids closed down, yet through their veil
I saw him, blazing, still,
And steep in gold the misty dale,
And flash upon the hill.

I turned me to the pillow, then,
To call back night, and see
Your worlds of solemn light, again,
Throb with my heart, and me!

It would not do--the pillow glowed,
And glowed both roof and floor;
And birds sang loudly in the wood,
And fresh winds shook the door;

The curtains waved, the wakened flies
Were murmuring round my room,
Imprisoned there, till I should rise,
And give them leave to roam.

Oh, stars, and dreams, and gentle night;
Oh, night and stars, return!
And hide me from the hostile light
That does not warm, but burn;

That drains the blood of suffering men;
Drinks tears, instead of dew;
Let me sleep through his blinding reign,
And only wake with you!

The Philosopher

Enough of thought, philosopher!
Too long hast thou been dreaming
Unlightened, in this chamber drear,
While summer's sun is beaming!
Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain
Concludes thy musings once again?

"Oh, for the time when I shall sleep
Without identity.
And never care how rain may steep,
Or snow may cover me!
No promised heaven, these wild desires
Could all, or half fulfil;
No threatened hell, with quenchless fires,
Subdue this quenchless will!"

"So said I, and still say the same;
Still, to my death, will say--
Three gods, within this little frame,
Are warring night; and day;
Heaven could not hold them all, and yet
They all are held in me;
And must be mine till I forget
My present entity!
Oh, for the time, when in my breast
Their struggles will be o'er!
Oh, for the day, when I shall rest,
And never suffer more!"

"I saw a spirit, standing, man,
Where thou dost stand--an hour ago,
And round his feet three rivers ran,
Of equal depth, and equal flow--
A golden stream--and one like blood;
And one like sapphire seemed to be;
But, where they joined their triple flood
It tumbled in an inky sea
The spirit sent his dazzling gaze
Down through that ocean's gloomy night;
Then, kindling all, with sudden blaze,
The glad deep sparkled wide and bright--
White as the sun, far, far more fair
Than its divided sources were!"

"And even for that spirit, seer,
I've watched and sought my life-time long;
Sought him in heaven, hell, earth, and air,
An endless search, and always wrong.
Had I but seen his glorious eye
ONCE light the clouds that wilder me;
I ne'er had raised this coward cry
To cease to think, and cease to be;

I ne'er had called oblivion blest,
Nor stretching eager hands to death,
Implored to change for senseless rest
This sentient soul, this living breath--
Oh, let me die--that power and will
Their cruel strife may close;
And conquered good, and conquering ill
Be lost in one repose!"


Cold in the earth--and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far, removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy 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;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn 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?

A Death-Scene

"O day! he cannot die
When thou so fair art shining!
O Sun, in such a glorious sky,
So tranquilly declining;

He cannot leave thee now,
While fresh west winds are blowing,
And all around his youthful brow
Thy cheerful light is glowing!

Edward, awake, awake--
The golden evening gleams
Warm and bright on Arden's lake--
Arouse thee from thy dreams!

Beside thee, on my knee,
My dearest friend, I pray
That thou, to cross the eternal sea,
Wouldst yet one hour delay:

I hear its billows roar--
I see them foaming high;
But no glimpse of a further shore
Has blest my straining eye.

Believe not what they urge
Of Eden isles beyond;
Turn back, from that tempestuous surge,
To thy own native land.

It is not death, but pain
That struggles in thy breast--
Nay, rally, Edward, rouse again;
I cannot let thee rest!"

One long look, that sore reproved me
For the woe I could not bear--
One mute look of suffering moved me
To repent my useless prayer:

And, with sudden check, the heaving
Of distraction passed away;
Not a sign of further grieving
Stirred my soul that awful day.

Paled, at length, the sweet sun setting;
Sunk to peace the twilight breeze:
Summer dews fell softly, wetting
Glen, and glade, and silent trees.

Then his eyes began to weary,
Weighed beneath a mortal sleep;
And their orbs grew strangely dreary,
Clouded, even as they would weep.

But they wept not, but they changed not,
Never moved, and never closed;
Troubled still, and still they ranged not--
Wandered not, nor yet reposed!

So I knew that he was dying--
Stooped, and raised his languid head;
Felt no breath, and heard no sighing,
So I knew that he was dead.


The linnet in the rocky dells,
The moor-lark in the air,
The bee among the heather bells
That hide my lady fair:

The wild deer browse above her breast;
The wild birds raise their brood;
And they, her smiles of love caressed,
Have left her solitude!

I ween, that when the grave's dark wall
Did first her form retain,
They thought their hearts could ne'er recall
The light of joy again.

They thought the tide of grief would flow
Unchecked through future years;
But where is all their anguish now,
And where are all their tears?

Well, let them fight for honour's breath,
Or pleasure's shade pursue--
The dweller in the land of death
Is changed and careless too.

And, if their eyes should watch and weep
Till sorrow's source were dry,
She would not, in her tranquil sleep,
Return a single sigh!

Blow, west-wind, by the lonely mound,
And murmur, summer-streams--
There is no need of other sound
To soothe my lady's dreams.


How beautiful the earth is still,
To thee--how full of happiness?
How little fraught with real ill,
Or unreal 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,
Equals in fortune and in years,
Have seen their morning melt in tears,
To clouded, smileless day;
Blest, had they died untried and young,
Before their hearts went wandering wrong,--
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
Must 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 that 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--
Sustained, my guide, by thee?
The more unjust seems present fate,
The more my spirit swells elate,
Strong, in thy strength, to anticipate
Rewarding destiny!

The Prisoner


In the dungeon-crypts idly did I stray,
Reckless of the lives wasting there away;
"Draw the ponderous bars! open, Warder stern!"
He dared not say me nay--the hinges harshly turn.

"Our guests are darkly lodged," I whisper'd, gazing through
The vault, whose grated eye showed heaven more gray than blue;
(This was when glad Spring laughed in awaking pride;)
"Ay, darkly lodged enough!" returned my sullen guide.

Then, God forgive my youth; forgive my careless tongue;
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 mild
As sculptured marble saint, or slumbering unwean'd 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 brow;
"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 to hear;
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 kind,
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 that has its home in me."

About her lips there played a smile of almost scorn,
"My friend," she gently said, "you have not heard me mourn;
When you my kindred's lives, MY lost life, can restore,
Then may I weep and sue,--but never, friend, before!

"Still, let my tyrants know, I am not doomed to wear
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 wandering airs,
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, that 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 thunder-storm.

"But, first, a hush of peace--a soundless calm descends;
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 reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels:
Its wings are almost free--its home, its harbour found,
Measuring the gulph, it stoops and dares the final bound,

"Oh I 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 less;
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 to go--
We had no further power to work the captive woe:
Her cheek, her gleaming eye, declared that man had given
A sentence, unapproved, and overruled by Heaven.


Hope Was but a timid friend;
She sat without the grated den,
Watching how my fate would tend,
Even as selfish-hearted men.

She was cruel in her fear;
Through the bars one dreary day,
I looked out to see her there,
And she turned her face away!

Like a false guard, false watch keeping,
Still, in strife, she whispered peace;
She would sing while I was weeping;
If I listened, she would cease.

False she was, and unrelenting;
When my last joys strewed the ground,
Even Sorrow saw, repenting,
Those sad relics scattered round;

Hope, whose whisper would have given
Balm to all my frenzied pain,
Stretched her wings, and soared to heaven,
Went, and ne'er returned again!

A Day Dream

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 gray rocks, looking on,
Asked, "What do you 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 its fall
Is on the 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 gleaming 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 rung
To that strange minstrelsy
The little glittering spirits sung,
Or seemed to sing, to me:

"O 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 wouldst 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.

To Imagination

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:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then 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 guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom's bound
We hold a bright, untroubled 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 vision 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 sweeter hope, when hope despairs!

How Clear She Shines

How clear she shines! How quietly
I lie beneath her guardian light;
While heaven and earth are whispering me,
"To morrow, wake, but dream to-night."
Yes, Fancy, come, my Fairy love!
These throbbing temples softly kiss;
And bend my lonely couch above,
And bring me rest, and bring me bliss.

The world is going; dark world, adieu!
Grim world, conceal thee till the day;
The heart thou canst not all subdue
Must still resist, if thou delay!

Thy love I will not, will not share;
Thy hatred only wakes a smile;
Thy griefs may wound--thy wrongs may tear,
But, oh, thy lies shall ne'er beguile!
While gazing on the stars that glow
Above me, in that stormless sea,
I long to hope that all the woe
Creation knows, is held in thee!

And this shall be my dream to-night;
I'll think the heaven of glorious spheres
Is rolling on its course of light
In endless bliss, through endless years;
I'll think, there's not one world above,
Far as these straining eyes can see,
Where Wisdom ever laughed at Love,
Or Virtue crouched to Infamy;

Where, writhing 'neath the strokes of Fate,
The mangled wretch was forced to smile;
To match his patience 'gainst her hate,
His heart rebellious all the while.
Where Pleasure still will lead to wrong,
And helpless Reason warn in vain;
And Truth is weak, and Treachery strong;
And Joy the surest path to Pain;
And Peace, the lethargy of Grief;
And Hope, a phantom of the soul;
And life, a labour, void and brief;
And Death, the despot of the whole!


There should be no despair for you
While nightly stars are burning;
While evening pours its silent dew,
And sunshine gilds the morning.
There should be no despair--though tears
May flow down like a river:
Are not the best beloved of years
Around your heart for ever?

They weep, you weep, it must be so;
Winds sigh as you are sighing,
And winter sheds its grief in snow
Where Autumn's leaves are lying:
Yet, these revive, and from their fate
Your fate cannot be parted:
Then, journey on, if not elate,
Still, NEVER broken-hearted!

Plead for Me

Oh, thy bright eyes must answer now,
When Reason, with a scornful brow,
Is mocking at my overthrow!
Oh, thy sweet tongue must plead for me
And tell why I have chosen thee!

Stern Reason is to judgment come,
Arrayed in all her forms of gloom:
Wilt thou, my advocate, be dumb?
No, radiant angel, speak and say,
Why I did cast the world away.

Why I have persevered to shun
The common paths that others run;
And on a strange road journeyed on,
Heedless, alike of wealth and power--
Of glory's wreath and pleasure's flower.

These, once, indeed, seemed Beings Divine;
And they, perchance, heard vows of mine,
And saw my offerings on their shrine;
But careless gifts are seldom prized,
And MINE were worthily despised.

So, with a ready heart, I swore
To seek their altar-stone no more;
And gave my spirit to adore
Thee, ever-present, phantom thing--
My slave, my comrade, and my king.

A slave, because I rule thee still;
Incline thee to my changeful will,
And make thy influence good or ill:
A comrade, for by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight,--

My darling pain that wounds and sears,
And wrings a blessing out from tears
By deadening me to earthly cares;
And yet, a king, though Prudence well
Have taught thy subject to rebel

And am I wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt, nor hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of visions, plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee!


"The evening passes fast away.
'Tis almost time to rest;
What thoughts has left the vanished day,
What feelings in thy breast?

"The vanished day? It leaves a sense
Of labour hardly done;
Of little gained with vast expense--
A sense of grief alone?

"Time stands before the door of Death,
Upbraiding bitterly
And Conscience, with exhaustless breath,
Pours black reproach on me:

"And though I've said that Conscience lies
And Time should Fate condemn;
Still, sad Repentance clouds my eyes,
And makes me yield to them!

"Then art thou glad to seek repose?
Art glad to leave the sea,
And anchor all thy weary woes
In calm Eternity?

"Nothing regrets to see thee go--
Not one voice sobs' farewell;'
And where thy heart has suffered so,
Canst thou desire to dwell?"

"Alas! the countless links are strong
That bind us to our clay;
The loving spirit lingers long,
And would not pass away!

"And rest is sweet, when laurelled fame
Will crown the soldier's crest;
But a brave heart, with a tarnished name,
Would rather fight than rest.

"Well, thou hast fought for many a year,
Hast fought thy whole life through,
Hast humbled Falsehood, trampled Fear;
What is there left to do?

"'Tis true, this arm has hotly striven,
Has dared what few would dare;
Much have I done, and freely given,
But little learnt to bear!

"Look on the grave where thou must sleep
Thy last, and strongest foe;
It is endurance not to weep,
If that repose seem woe.

"The long war closing in defeat--
Defeat serenely borne,--
Thy midnight rest may still be sweet,
And break in glorious morn!"


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 brightly,
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 for ever 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 that second May!

High it rose--no winged 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!

Cruel Death! The young leaves droop and languish;
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.

Stanzas to ----

Well, some may hate, and some may scorn,
And some may quite forget thy name;
But my sad heart must ever mourn
Thy ruined hopes, thy blighted fame!
'Twas thus I thought, an hour ago,
Even weeping o'er that wretch's woe;
One word turned back my gushing tears,
And lit my altered eye with sneers.
Then "Bless the friendly dust," I said,
"That hides thy unlamented head!
Vain as thou wert, and weak as vain,
The slave of Falsehood, Pride, and Pain--
My heart has nought akin to thine;
Thy soul is powerless over mine."
But these were thoughts that vanished too;
Unwise, unholy, and untrue:
Do I despise the timid deer,
Because his limbs are fleet with fear?
Or, would I mock the wolf's death-howl,
Because his form is gaunt and foul?
Or, hear with joy the leveret's cry,
Because it cannot bravely die?
No! Then above his memory
Let Pity's heart as tender be;
Say, "Earth, lie lightly on that breast,
And, kind Heaven, grant that spirit rest!"

Honour's Martyr

The moon is full this winter night;
The stars are clear, though few;
And every window glistens bright
With leaves of frozen dew.

The sweet moon through your lattice gleams,
And lights your room like day;
And there you pass, in happy dreams,
The peaceful hours away!

While I, with effort hardly quelling
The anguish in my breast,
Wander about the silent dwelling,
And cannot think of rest.

The old clock in the gloomy hall
Ticks on, from hour to hour;
And every time its measured call
Seems lingering slow and slower:

And, oh, how slow that keen-eyed star
Has tracked the chilly gray!
What, watching yet! how very far
The morning lies away!

Without your chamber door I stand;
Love, are you slumbering still?
My cold heart, underneath my hand,
Has almost ceased to thrill.

Bleak, bleak the east wind sobs and sighs,
And drowns the turret bell,
Whose sad note, undistinguished, dies
Unheard, like my farewell!

To-morrow, Scorn will blight my name,
And Hate will trample me,
Will load me with a coward's shame--
A traitor's perjury.

False friends will launch their covert sneers;
True friends will wish me dead;
And I shall cause the bitterest tears
That you have ever shed.

The dark deeds of my outlawed race
Will then like virtues shine;
And men will pardon their disgrace,
Beside the guilt of mine.

For, who forgives the accursed crime
Of dastard treachery?
Rebellion, in its chosen time,
May Freedom's champion be;

Revenge may stain a righteous sword,
It may be just to slay;
But, traitor, traitor,--from THAT word
All true breasts shrink away!

Oh, I would give my heart to death,
To keep my honour fair;
Yet, I'll not give my inward faith
My honour's NAME to spare!

Not even to keep your priceless love,
Dare I, Beloved, deceive;
This treason should the future prove,
Then, only then, believe!

I know the path I ought to go
I follow fearlessly,
Inquiring not what deeper woe
Stern duty stores for me.

So foes pursue, and cold allies
Mistrust me, every one:
Let me be false in others' eyes,
If faithful in my own.


I'll not weep that thou art going to leave me,
There's nothing lovely here;
And doubly will the dark world grieve me,
While thy heart suffers there.

I'll not weep, because the summer's glory
Must always end in gloom;
And, follow out the happiest story--
It closes with a tomb!

And I am weary of the anguish
Increasing winters bear;
Weary to watch the spirit languish
Through years of dead despair.

So, if a tear, when thou art dying,
Should haply fall from me,
It is but that my soul is sighing,
To go and rest with thee.

My Comforter

Well hast thou spoken, and yet not taught
A feeling strange or new;
Thou hast but roused a latent thought,
A cloud-closed beam of sunshine brought
To gleam in open view.

Deep down, concealed within my soul,
That light lies hid from men;
Yet glows unquenched--though shadows roll,
Its gentle ray cannot control--
About the sullen den.

Was I not vexed, in these gloomy ways
To walk alone so long?
Around me, wretches uttering praise,
Or howling o'er their hopeless days,
And each with Frenzy's tongue;-

A brotherhood of misery,
Their smiles as sad as sighs;
Whose madness daily maddened me,
Distorting into agony
The bliss before my eyes!

So stood I, in Heaven's glorious sun,
And in the glare of Hell;
My spirit drank a mingled tone,
Of seraph's song, and demon's moan;
What my soul bore, my soul alone
Within itself may tell!

Like a soft, air above a sea,
Tossed by the tempest's stir;
A thaw-wind, melting quietly
The snow-drift on some wintry lea;
No: what sweet thing resembles thee,
My thoughtful Comforter?

And yet a little longer speak,
Calm this resentful mood;
And while the savage heart grows meek,
For other token do not seek,
But let the tear upon my cheek
Evince my gratitude!

The Old Stoic

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 ;
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.

Introduced by Charlotte Bronte

It would not have been difficult to compile a volume out of the papers left by my sisters, had I, in making the selection, dismissed from my consideration the scruples and the wishes of those whose written thoughts these papers held. But this was impossible: an influence, stronger than could be exercised by any motive of expediency, necessarily regulated the selection. I have, then, culled from the mass only a little poem here and there. The whole makes but a tiny nosegay, and the colour and perfume of the flowers are not such as fit them for festal uses.

It has been already said that my sisters wrote much in childhood and girlhood. Usually, it seems a sort of injustice to expose in print the crude thoughts of the unripe mind, the rude efforts of the unpractised hand; yet I venture to give three little poems of my sister Emily's, written in her sixteenth year, because they illustrate a point in her character.

At that period she was sent to school. Her previous life, with the exception of a single half-year, had been passed in the absolute retirement of a village parsonage, amongst the hills bordering Yorkshire and Lancashire. The scenery of these hills is not grand--it is not romantic it is scarcely striking. Long low moors, dark with heath, shut in little valleys, where a stream waters, here and there, a fringe of stunted copse. Mills and scattered cottages chase romance from these valleys; it is only higher up, deep in amongst the ridges of the moors, that Imagination can find rest for the sole of her foot: and even if she finds it there, she must be a solitude-loving raven--no gentle dove. If she demand beauty to inspire her, she must bring it inborn: these moors are too stern to yield any product so delicate. The eye of the gazer must ITSELF brim with a "purple light," intense enough to perpetuate the brief flower-flush of August on the heather, or the rare sunset-smile of June; out of his heart must well the freshness, that in latter spring and early summer brightens the bracken, nurtures the moss, and cherishes the starry flowers that spangle for a few weeks the pasture of the moor-sheep. Unless that light and freshness are innate and self-sustained, the drear prospect of a Yorkshire moor will be found as barren of poetic as of agricultural interest: where the love of wild nature is strong, the locality will perhaps be clung to with the more passionate constancy, because from the hill-lover's self comes half its charm.

My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hill-side her mind could make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the least and best loved was--liberty.

Liberty was the breath of Emily's nostrils; without it, she perished. The change from her own home to a school, and from her own very noiseless, very secluded, but unrestricted and inartificial mode of life, to one of disciplined routine (though under the kindliest auspices), was what she failed in enduring. Her nature proved here too strong for her fortitude. Every morning when she woke, the vision of home and the moors rushed on her, and darkened and saddened the day that lay before her. Nobody knew what ailed her but me--I knew only too well. In this struggle her health was quickly broken: her white face, attenuated form, and failing strength, threatened rapid decline. I felt in my heart she would die, if she did not go home, and with this conviction obtained her recall. She had only been three months at school; and it was some years before the experiment of sending her from home was again ventured on. After the age of twenty, having meantime studied alone with diligence and perseverance, she went with me to an establishment on the Continent: the same suffering and conflict ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of her upright, heretic and English spirit from the gentle Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish system. Once more she seemed sinking, but this time she rallied through the mere force of resolution: with inward remorse and shame she looked back on her former failure, and resolved to conquer in this second ordeal. She did conquer: but the victory cost her dear. She was never happy till she carried her hard-won knowledge back to the remote English village, the old parsonage-house, and desolate Yorkshire hills. A very few years more, and she looked her last on those hills, and breathed her last in that house, and under the aisle of that obscure village church found her last lowly resting-place. Merciful was the decree that spared her when she was a stranger in a strange land, and guarded her dying bed with kindred love and congenial constancy.

The following pieces were composed at twilight, in the school- room, when the leisure of the evening play-hour brought back in full tide the thoughts of home.


A little while, a little while,
The weary task is put away,
And I can sing and I can smile,
Alike, while I have holiday.

Where wilt thou go, my harassed heart--
What thought, what scene invites thee now
What spot, or near or far apart,
Has rest for thee, my weary brow?

There is a spot, 'mid barren hills,
Where winter howls, and driving rain;
But, if the dreary tempest chills,
There is a light that warms again.

The house is old, the trees are bare,
Moonless above bends twilight's dome;
But what on earth is half so dear--
So longed for--as the hearth of home?

The mute bird sitting on the stone,
The dank moss dripping from the wall,
The thorn-trees gaunt, the walks o'ergrown,
I love them--how I love them all!

Still, as I mused, the naked room,
The alien firelight died away;
And from the midst of cheerless gloom,
I passed to bright, unclouded day.

A little and a lone green lane
That opened on a common wide;
A distant, dreamy, dim blue chain
Of mountains circling every side.

A heaven so clear, an earth so calm,
So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air;
And, deepening still the dream-like charm,
Wild moor-sheep feeding everywhere.

THAT was the scene, I knew it well;
I knew the turfy pathway's sweep,
That, winding o'er each billowy swell,
Marked out the tracks of wandering sheep.

Could I have lingered but an hour,
It well had paid a week of toil;
But Truth has banished Fancy's power:
Restraint and heavy task recoil.

Even as I stood with raptured eye,
Absorbed in bliss so deep and dear,
My hour of rest had fleeted by,
And back came labour, bondage, care.

II. The Bluebell
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care.

There is a spell in purple heath
Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath,
But fragrance will not cheer,

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,
And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold,
And earth her robe of green.

And ice upon the glancing stream
Has cast its sombre shade;
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed.

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,
The heath has lost its bloom;
The violets in the glen below,
They yield no sweet perfume.

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,
'Tis better far away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile to-day.

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall
Adown that dreary sky,
And gild yon dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy;

How do I weep, how do I pine
For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine,
To mourn the fields of home!


Loud without the wind was roaring
Through th'autumnal sky;
Drenching wet, the cold rain pouring,
Spoke of winter nigh.
All too like that dreary eve,
Did my exiled spirit grieve.
Grieved at first, but grieved not long,
Sweet--how softly sweet!--it came;
Wild words of an ancient song,
Undefined, without a name.

"It was spring, and the skylark was singing:"
Those words they awakened a spell;
They unlocked a deep fountain, whose springing,
Nor absence, nor distance can quell.

In the gloom of a cloudy November
They uttered the music of May ;
They kindled the perishing ember
Into fervour that could not decay.

Awaken, o'er all my dear moorland,
West-wind, in thy glory and pride!
Oh! call me from valley and lowland,
To walk by the hill-torrent's side!

It is swelled with the first snowy weather;
The rocks they are icy and hoar,
And sullenly waves the long heather,
And the fern leaves are sunny no more.

There are no yellow stars on the mountain
The bluebells have long died away
From the brink of the moss-bedded fountain--
From the side of the wintry brae.

But lovelier than corn-fields all waving
In emerald, and vermeil, and gold,
Are the heights where the north-wind is raving,
And the crags where I wandered of old.

It was morning: the bright sun was beaming;
How sweetly it brought back to me
The time when nor labour nor dreaming
Broke the sleep of the happy and free!

But blithely we rose as the dawn-heaven
Was melting to amber and blue,
And swift were the wings to our feet given,
As we traversed the meadows of dew.

For the moors! For the moors, where the short grass
Like velvet beneath us should lie!
For the moors! For the moors, where each high pass
Rose sunny against the clear sky!

For the moors, where the linnet was trilling
Its song on the old granite stone;
Where the lark, the wild sky-lark, was filling
Every breast with delight like its own!

What language can utter the feeling
Which rose, when in exile afar,
On the brow of a lonely hill kneeling,
I saw the brown heath growing there?

It was scattered and stunted, and told me
That soon even that would be gone:
It whispered, "The grim walls enfold me,
I have bloomed in my last summer's sun."

But not the loved music, whose waking
Makes the soul of the Swiss die away,
Has a spell more adored and heartbreaking
Than, for me, in that blighted heath lay.

The spirit which bent 'neath its power,
How it longed--how it burned to be free!
If I could have wept in that hour,
Those tears had been heaven to me.

Well--well; the sad minutes are moving,
Though loaded with trouble and pain;
And some time the loved and the loving
Shall meet on the mountains again!

The following little piece has no title; but in it the Genius of a solitary region seems to address his wandering and wayward votary, and to recall within his influence the proud mind which rebelled at times even against what it most loved.

Shall earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee,
Shall nature cease to bow?

Thy mind is ever moving,
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving,
Come back, and dwell with me.

I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still,
I know my sunshine pleases,
Despite thy wayward will.

When day with evening blending,
Sinks from the summer sky,
I've seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatry.

I've watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway:
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.

Few hearts to mortals given,
On earth so wildly pine;
Yet few would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.

Then let my winds caress thee
Thy comrade let me be:
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return--and dwell with me.

Here again is the same mind in converse with a like abstraction. "The Night-Wind," breathing through an open window, has visited an ear which discerned language in its whispers.

The Night-Wind

In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
How dark the woods will be!

"The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem."

I said, "Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

"Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supple bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow."

The wanderer would not heed me;
Its kiss grew warmer still.
"O come!" it sighed so sweetly;
"I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

"Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

"And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And THOU for being alone."

In these stanzas a louder gale has roused the sleeper on her pillow: the wakened soul struggles to blend with the storm by which it is swayed:--

Ay--there it is! it wakes to-night
Deep feelings I thought dead;
Strong in the blast--quick gathering light--
The heart's flame kindles red.

"Now I can tell by thine altered cheek,
And by thine eyes' full gaze,
And by the words thou scarce dost speak,
How wildly fancy plays.

"Yes--I could swear that glorious wind
Has swept the world aside,
Has dashed its memory from thy mind
Like foam-bells from the tide:

"And thou art now a spirit pouring
Thy presence into all:
The thunder of the tempest's roaring,
The whisper of its fall:

"An universal influence,
From thine own influence free;
A principle of life--intense--
Lost to mortality.
"Thus truly, when that breast is cold,
Thy prisoned soul shall rise;
The dungeon mingle with the mould--
The captive with the skies.
Nature's deep being, thine shall hold,
Her spirit all thy spirit fold,
Her breath absorb thy sighs.
Mortal! though soon life's tale is told;
Who once lives, never dies!"

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar;
Friendship like the holly-tree.
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?

The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again,
And who will call the wild-briar fair?

Then, scorn the silly rose-wreath now,
And deck thee with the holly's sheen,
That, when December blights thy brow,
He still may leave thy garland green.

The Elder's Rebuke

"Listen! When your hair, like mine,
Takes a tint of silver gray;
When your eyes, with dimmer shine,
Watch life's bubbles float away:

When you, young man, have borne like me
The weary weight of sixty-three,
Then shall penance sore be paid
For those hours so wildly squandered;
And the words that now fall dead
On your ear, be deeply pondered--
Pondered and approved at last:
But their virtue will be past!

"Glorious is the prize of Duty,
Though she be 'a serious power';
Treacherous all the lures of Beauty,
Thorny bud and poisonous flower!

"Mirth is but a mad beguiling
Of the golden-gifted time;
Love - a demon-meteor, wiling
Heedless feet to gulfs of crime.

"Those who follow earthly pleasure,
Heavenly knowledge will not lead;
Wisdom hides from them her treasure,
Virtue bids them evil-speed!

"Vainly may their hearts repenting.
Seek for aid in future years;
Wisdom, scorned, knows no relenting;
Virtue is not won by fears."

Thus spake the ice-blooded elder gray;
The young man scoffed as he turned away,
Turned to the call of a sweet lute's measure,
Waked by the lightsome touch of pleasure:
Had he ne'er met a gentler teacher,
Woe had been wrought by that pitiless preacher.

The Wanderer from the Fold

How few, of all the hearts that loved,
Are grieving for thee now;
And why should mine to-night be moved
With such a sense of woe?

Too often thus, when left alone,
Where none my thoughts can see,
Comes back a word, a passing tone
From thy strange history.

Sometimes I seem to see thee rise,
A glorious child again;
All virtues beaming from thine eyes
That ever honoured men:

Courage and truth, a generous breast
Where sinless sunshine lay:
A being whose very presence blest
Like gladsome summer-day.

O, fairly spread thy early sail,
And fresh, and pure, and free,
Was the first impulse of the gale
Which urged life's wave for thee!

Why did the pilot, too confiding,
Dream o'er that ocean's foam,
And trust in Pleasure's careless guiding
To bring his vessel home?

For well he knew what dangers frowned,
What mists would gather, dim;
What rocks and shelves, and sands lay round
Between his port and him.

The very brightness of the sun
The splendour of the main,
The wind which bore him wildly on
Should not have warned in vain.

An anxious gazer from the shore--
I marked the whitening wave,
And wept above thy fate the more
Because--I could not save.

It recks not now, when all is over:
But yet my heart will be
A mourner still, though friend and lover
Have both forgotten thee!

Warning and Reply
In the earth--the earth--thou shalt be laid,
A grey stone standing over thee;
Black mould beneath thee spread,
And black mould to cover thee.

"Well--there is rest there,
So fast come thy prophecy;
The time when my sunny hair
Shall with grass roots entwined be."

But cold--cold is that resting-place,
Shut out from joy and liberty,
And all who loved thy living face
Will shrink from it shudderingly,

"Not so. HERE the world is chill,
And sworn friends fall from me:
But THERE--they will own me still,
And prize my memory."

Farewell, then, all that love,
All that deep sympathy:
Sleep on: Heaven laughs above,
Earth never misses thee.

Turf-sod and tombstone drear
Part human company;
One heart breaks only--here,
But that heart was worthy thee!

Last Words

I knew not 'twas so dire a crime
To say the word, "Adieu;"
But this shall be the only time
My lips or heart shall sue.

That wild hill-side, the winter morn,
The gnarled and ancient tree,
If in your breast they waken scorn,
Shall wake the same in me.

I can forget black eyes and brows,
And lips of falsest charm,
If you forget the sacred vows
Those faithless lips could form.

If hard commands can tame your love,
Or strongest walls can hold,
I would not wish to grieve above
A thing so false and cold.

And there are bosoms bound to mine
With links both tried and strong:
And there are eyes whose lightning shine
Has warmed and blest me long:

Those eyes shall make my only day,
Shall set my spirit free,
And chase the foolish thoughts away
That mourn your memory.

The Lady to Her Guitar

For him who struck thy foreign string,
I ween this heart has ceased to care;
Then why dost thou such feelings bring
To my sad spirit--old Guitar?

It is as if the warm sunlight
In some deep glen should lingering stay,
When clouds of storm, or shades of night,
Have wrapt the parent orb away.

It is as if the glassy brook
Should image still its willows fair,
Though years ago the woodman's stroke
Laid low in dust their Dryad-hair.

Even so, Guitar, thy magic tone
Hath moved the tear and waked the sigh:
Hath bid the ancient torrent moan,
Although its very source is dry.

The Two Children

Heavy hangs the rain-drop
From the burdened spray;
Heavy broods the damp mist
On uplands far away.

Heavy looms the dull sky,
Heavy rolls the sea;
And heavy throbs 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;
Boyhood sad is merging
In sadder manhood's time:

All the flowers are praying
For sun, before they close,
And he prays too--unconscious--
That sunless human rose.

Blossom--that the west-wind
Has never wooed to blow,
Scentless are thy petals,
Thy dew is cold as snow!

Soul--where kindred kindness,
No early promise woke,
Barren is thy beauty,
As weed upon a rock.

Wither--soul and blossom!
You both were vainly given;
Earth reserves no blessing
For the unblest of heaven!

Child of delight, with sun-bright hair,
And sea-blue, sea-deep eyes!
Spirit of bliss! What brings thee here
Beneath these sullen skies?

Thou shouldst live in eternal spring,
Where endless day is never dim;
Why, Seraph, has thine erring wing
Wafted thee down to weep with him?

"Ah! not from heaven am I descended,
Nor do I 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 vowed--if need were--to share his sadness,
And give to him my sunny 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--

"Watch in love by a fevered pillow,
Cooling the fever with pity's balm
Safe as the petrel on tossing billow,
Safe in mine own soul's golden calm!

"Guardian-angel he lacks no longer;
Evil fortune he need not fear:
Fate is strong, but love is stronger;
And MY love is truer than angel-care."

The Visionary

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 drift, 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 frozen snow.

What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What 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 clear--
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.


I do not weep; I would not weep;
Our mother needs no tears:
Dry thine eyes, too; 'tis vain to keep
This causeless grief for years.

What though her brow be changed and cold,
Her sweet eyes closed for ever?
What though the stone--the darksome mould
Our mortal bodies sever?

What though her hand smooth ne'er again
Those silken locks of thine?
Nor, through long hours of future pain,
Her kind face o'er thee shine?

Remember still, she is not dead;
She sees us, sister, now;
Laid, where her angel spirit fled,
'Mid heath and frozen snow.

And from that world of heavenly light
Will she not always bend
To guide us in our lifetime's night,
And guard us to the end?

Thou knowest she will; and thou mayst mourn
That WE are left below:
But not that she can ne'er return
To share our earthly woe.


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 grey 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.

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.

O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life--that in me has 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 thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The stedfast 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 man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou--THOU art Being and Breath,
And what THOU art may never be destroyed.


It has been thought that all the works published under the names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were, in reality, the production of one person. This mistake I endeavoured to rectify by a few words of disclaimer prefixed to the third edition of Jane Eyre. These, too, it appears, failed to gain general credence, and now, on the occasion of a reprint of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, I am advised distinctly to state how the case really stands.

Indeed, I feel myself that it is time the obscurity attending those two names - Ellis and Acton - was done away. The little mystery, which formerly yielded some harmless pleasure, has lost its interest; circumstances are changed. It becomes, then, my duty to explain briefly the origin and authorship of the books written by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. About five years ago, my two sisters and myself, after a somewhat prolonged period of separation, found ourselves reunited, and at home. Resident in a remote district, where education had made little progress, and where, consequently, there was no inducement to seek social intercourse beyond our own domestic circle, we were wholly dependent on ourselves and each other, on books and study, for the enjoyments and occupations of life. The highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest pleasure we had known from childhood upwards, lay in attempts at literary composition; formerly we used to show each other what we wrote, but of late years this habit of communication and consultation had been discontinued; hence it ensued, that we were mutually ignorant of the progress we might respectively have made.

One day, in the autumn of 1845, I accidentally lighted on a MS. volume of verse in my sister Emily's handwriting. Of course, I was not surprised, knowing that she could and did write verse: I looked it over, and something more than surprise seized me - a deep conviction that these were not common effusions, nor at all like the poetry women generally write. I thought them condensed and terse, vigorous and genuine. To my ear they had also a peculiar music - wild, melancholy, and elevating.

My sister Emily was not a person of demonstrative character, nor one on the recesses of whose mind and feelings even those nearest and dearest to her could, with impunity, intrude unlicensed; it took hours to reconcile her to the discovery I had made, and days to persuade her that such poems merited publication. I knew, however, that a mind like hers could not be without some latent spark of honourable ambition, and refused to be discouraged in my attempts to fan that spark to flame.

Meantime, my younger sister quietly produced some of her own compositions, intimating that, since Emily's had given me pleasure, I might like to look at hers. I could not but be a partial judge, yet I thought that these verses, too, had a sweet, sincere pathos of their own.

We had very early cherished the dream of one day becoming authors. This dream, never relinquished even when distance divided and absorbing tasks occupied us, now suddenly acquired strength and consistency: it took the character of a resolve. We agreed to arrange a small selection of our poems, and, if possible, to get them printed. Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because - without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called "feminine" - we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.

The bringing out of our little book was hard work. As was to be expected, neither we nor our poems were at all wanted; but for this we had been prepared at the outset; though inexperienced ourselves, we had read the experience of others. The great puzzle lay in the difficulty of getting answers of any kind from the publishers to whom we applied. Being greatly harassed by this obstacle, I ventured to apply to the Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh, for a word of advice; they may have forgotten the circumstance, but I have not, for from them I received a brief and business-like, but civil and sensible reply, on which we acted, and at last made a way. The book was printed: it is scarcely known, and all of it that merits to be known are the poems of Ellis Bell. The fixed conviction I held, and hold, of the worth of these poems has not indeed received the confirmation of much favourable criticism; but I must retain it notwithstanding. Ill-success failed to crush us: the mere effort to succeed had given a wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued. We each set to work on a prose tale: Ellis Bell produced Wuthering Heights, Acton Bell Agnes Grey, and Currer Bell also wrote a narrative in one volume. These MSS. were perseveringly obtruded upon various publishers for the space of a year and a half; usually, their fate was an ignominious and abrupt dismissal.

At last Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were accepted on terms somewhat impoverishing to the two authors; Currer Bell's book found acceptance nowhere, nor any acknowledgment of merit, so that something like the chill of despair began to invade her heart. As a forlorn hope, she tried one publishing house more - Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co. Ere long, in a much shorter space than that on which experience had taught her to calculate - there came a letter, which she opened in the dreary expectation of finding two hard, hopeless lines, intimating that Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co. "were not disposed to publish the MS.", and, instead, she took out of the envelope a letter of two pages. She read it trembling. It declined, indeed, to publish that tale, for business reasons, but it discussed its merits and demerits so courteously, so considerately, in a spirit so rational, with a discrimination so enlightened, that this very refusal cheered the author better than a vulgarly expressed acceptance would have done. It was added, that a work in three volumes would meet with careful attention.

I was then just completing Jane Eyre, at which I had been working while the one-volume tale was plodding its weary round in London: in three weeks I sent it off; friendly and skilful hands took it in. This was in the commencement of September, 1847; it came out before the close of October following, while Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, my sisters' works, which had already been in the press for months, still lingered under a different management.

They appeared at last. Critics failed to do them justice. The immature but very real powers revealed in Wuthering Heights were scarcely recognised; its import and nature were misunderstood; the identity of its author was misrepresented; it was said that this was an earlier and ruder attempt of the same pen which had produced Jane Eyre. Unjust and grievous error! We laughed at it at first, but I deeply lament it now. Hence, I fear, arose a prejudice against the book. That writer who could attempt to palm off an inferior and immature production under cover of one successful effort, must indeed be unduly eager after the secondary and sordid result of authorship, and pitiably indifferent to its true and honourable meed. If reviewers and the public truly believed this, no wonder that they looked darkly on the cheat.

Yet I must not be understood to make these things subject for reproach or complaint; I dare not do so; respect for my sister's memory forbids me. By her any such querulous manifestation would have been regarded as an unworthy and offensive weakness.

It is my duty, as well as my pleasure, to acknowledge one exception to the general rule of criticism. One writer, endowed with the keen vision and fine sympathies of genius, has discerned the real nature of Wuthering Heights, and has, with equal accuracy, noted its beauties and touched on its faults. Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the ‘writing on the wall, "and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation. We have a right to rejoice when a true seer comes at last, some man in whom is an excellent spirit, to whom have been given light, wisdom, and understanding; who can accurately read the ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" of an original mind (however unripe, however inefficiently cultured and partially expanded that mind may be); and who can say with confidence, ‘This is the interpretation thereof.

Yet even the writer to whom I allude shares the mistake about the authorship, and does me the injustice to suppose that there was equivoque in my former rejection of this honour (as an honour I regard it). May I assure him that I would scorn in this and in every other case to deal in equivoque; I believe language to have been given us to make our meaning clear, and not to wrap it in dishonest doubt?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Acton Bell, had likewise an unfavourable reception. At this I cannot wonder. The choice of subject was an entire mistake. Nothing less congruous with the writer's nature could be conceived. The motives which dictated this choice were pure, but, I think, slightly morbid. She had, in the course of her life, been called on to contemplate, near at hand, and for a long time, the terrible effects of talents misused and faculties abused: hers was naturally a sensitive, reserved, and dejected nature; what she saw sank very deeply into her mind; it did her harm. She brooded over it till she believed it to be a duty to reproduce every detail (of course with fictitious characters, incidents, and situations), as a warning to others. She hated her work, but would pursue it. When reasoned with on the subject, she regarded such reasonings as a temptation to self-indulgence. She must be honest; she must not varnish, soften, nor conceal. This well-meant resolution brought on her misconstruction, and some abuse, which she bore, as it was her custom to bear whatever was unpleasant, with mild, steady patience. She was a very sincere, and practical Christian, but the tinge of religious melancholy communicated a sad shade to her brief, blameless life.

Neither Ellis nor Acton allowed herself for one moment to sink under want of encouragement; energy nerved the one, and endurance upheld the other. They were both prepared to try again; I would fain think that hope and the sense of power were yet strong within them. But a great change approached; affliction came in that shape which to anticipate is dread; to look back on, grief. In the very heat and burden of the day, the labourers failed over their work.

My sister Emily first declined. The details of her illness are deep-branded in my memory, but to dwell on them, either in thought or narrative, is not in my power. Never in all her life had she lingered over any task that lay before her, and she did not linger now. She sank rapidly. She made haste to leave us. Yet, while physically she perished, mentally she grew stronger than we had yet known her. Day by day, when I saw with what a front she met suffering, I looked on her with an anguish of wonder and love. I have seen nothing like it; but, indeed, I have never seen her parallel in anything. Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone. The awful point was, that while full of ruth for others, on herself she had no pity; the spirit was inexorable to the flesh; from the trembling hand, the unnerved limbs, the faded eyes, the same service was exacted as they had rendered in health. To stand by and witness this, and not dare to remonstrate, was a pain no words can render.

Two cruel months of hope and fear passed painfully by, and the day came at last when the terrors and pains of death were to be undergone by this treasure, which had grown dearer and dearer to our hearts as it wasted before our eyes. Towards the decline of that day, we had nothing of Emily but her mortal remains as consumption left them. She died December 19, 1848.

We thought this enough: but we were utterly and presumptuously wrong. She was not buried ere Anne fell ill. She had not been committed to the grave a fortnight, before we received distinct intimation that it was necessary to prepare our minds to see the younger sister go after the elder. Accordingly, she followed in the same path with slower step, and with a patience that equalled the other's fortitude. I have said that she was religious, and it was by leaning on those Christian doctrines in which she firmly believed, that she found support through her most painful journey. I witnessed their efficacy in her latest hour and greatest trial, and must bear my testimony to the calm triumph with which they brought her through. She died May 28, 1849.

What more shall I say about them? I cannot and need not say much more. In externals, they were two unobtrusive women; a perfectly secluded life gave them retiring manners and habits. In Emily's nature the extremes of vigour and simplicity seemed to meet. Under an unsophisticated culture, inartificial tastes, and an unpretending outside, lay a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero; but she had no worldly wisdom; her powers were unadapted to the practical business of life; she would fail to defend her most manifest rights, to consult her most legitimate advantage. An interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world. Her will was not very flexible, and it generally opposed her interest. Her temper was magnanimous, but warm and sudden; her spirit altogether unbending.

Anne's character was milder and more subdued; she wanted the power, the fire, the originality of her sister, but was well endowed with quiet virtues of her own. Long-suffering, self-denying, reflective, and intelligent, a constitutional reserve and taciturnity placed and kept her in the shade, and covered her mind, and especially her feelings, with a sort of nun-like veil, which was rarely lifted. Neither Emily nor Anne was learned; they had no thought of filling their pitchers at the well-spring of other minds; they always wrote from the impulse of nature, the dictates of intuition, and from such stores of observation as their limited experience had enabled them to amass. I may sum up all by saying, that for strangers they were nothing, for superficial observers less than nothing; but for those who had known them all their lives in the intimacy of close relationship, they were genuinely good and truly great.

This notice has been written because I felt it a sacred duty to wipe the dust off their gravestones, and leave their dear names free from soil.


September 19, 1850.


I have just read over Wuthering Heights, and, for the first time, have obtained a clear glimpse of what are termed (and, perhaps, really are) its faults; have gained a definite notion of how it appears to other people - to strangers who knew nothing of the author; who are unacquainted with the locality where the scenes of the story are laid; to whom the inhabitants, the customs, the natural characteristics of the outlying hills and hamlets in the West Riding of Yorkshire are things alien and unfamiliar.

To all such Wuthering Heights must appear a rude and strange production. The wild moors of the North of England can for them have no interest: the language, the manners, the very dwellings and household customs of the scattered inhabitants of those districts must be to such readers in a great measure unintelligible, and - where intelligible - repulsive. Men and women who, perhaps, naturally very calm, and with feelings moderate in degree, and little marked in kind, have been trained from their cradle to observe the utmost evenness of manner and guardedness of language, will hardly know what to make of the rough, strong utterance, the harshly manifested passions, the unbridled aversions, and headlong partialities of unlettered moorland hinds and rugged moorland squires, who have grown up untaught and unchecked, except by Mentors as harsh as themselves. A large class of readers, likewise, will suffer greatly from the introduction into the pages of this work of words printed with all their letters, which it has become the custom to represent by the initial and final letter only - a blank line filling the interval. I may as well say at once that, for this circumstance, it is out of my power to apologise; deeming it, myself, a rational plan to write words at full length. The practice of hinting by single letters those expletives with which profane and violent persons are wont to garnish their discourse, strikes me as a proceeding which, however well meant, is weak and futile. I cannot tell what good it does - what feeling it spares - what horror it conceals.

With regard to the rusticity of Wuthering heights, I admit the charge, for I feel the quality. It is rustic all through. It is moorish, and wild, and knotty as a root of heath. Nor was it natural that it should be otherwise; the author being herself a native and nursling of the moors. Doubtless, had her lot been cast in a town, her writings, if she had written at all, would have possessed another character. Even had chance or taste led her to choose a similar subject, she would have treated it otherwise. Had Ellis Bell been a lady or a gentleman accustomed to what is called "the world," her view of a remote and unreclaimed region, as well as of the dwellers therein, would have differed greatly from that actually taken by the home-bred country girl. Doubtless it would have been wider - more comprehensive: whether it would have been more original or more truthful is not so certain. As far as the scenery and locality are concerned, it could scarcely have been so sympathetic: Ellis Bell did not describe as one whose eye and taste alone found pleasure in the prospect; her native hills were far more to her than a spectacle; they were what she lived in, and by, as much as the wild birds, their tenants, or as the heather, their produce. Her descriptions, then, of natural scenery are what they should be, and all they should be.

Where delineation of human character is concerned, the case is different. I am bound to avow that she had scarcely more practical knowledge of the peasantry amongst whom she lived, than a nun has of the country people who sometimes pass her convent gates. My sister's disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she know them: knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but with them, she rarely exchanged a word. Hence it ensued that what her mind had gathered of the real concerning them, was too exclusively confined to those tragic and terrible traits of which, in listening to the secret annals of every rude vicinage, the memory is sometimes compelled to receive the impress. Her imagination, which was a spirit more sombre than sunny, more powerful than sportive, found in such traits material whence it wrought creations like Heathcliff, like Earnshaw, like Catherine. Having formed these beings, she did not know what she had done. If the auditor of her work, when read in manuscript, shuddered under the grinding influence of natures so relentless and implacable, of spirits so lost and fallen; if it was complained that the mere hearing of certain vivid and fearful scenes banished sleep by night, and disturbed mental peace by day, Ellis Bell would wonder what was meant, and suspect the complainant of affectation. Had she but lived, her mind would of itself have grown like a strong tree, loftier, straighter, wider-spreading, and its matured fruits would have attained a mellower ripeness and sunnier bloom; but on that mind time and experience alone could work: to the influence of other intellects it was not amenable. Having avowed that over much of Wuthering Heights there broods "a horror of great darkness"; that, in its storm-heated and electrical atmosphere, we seem at times to breathe lightning: let me point to those spots where clouded day-light and the eclipsed sun still attest their existence. For a specimen of true benevolence and homely fidelity, look at the character of Nelly Dean; for an example of constancy and tenderness, remark that of Edgar Linton. (Some people will think these qualities do not shine so well incarnate in a man as they would do in a woman, but Ellis Bell could never be brought to comprehend this notion: nothing moved her more than any insinuation that the faithfulness and clemency, the long-suffering and loving-kindness which are esteemed virtues in the daughters of Eve, become foibles in the sons of Adam. She held that mercy and forgiveness are the divinest attributes of the Great Being who made both man and woman, and that what clothes the Godhead in glory, can disgrace no form of feeble humanity.) There is a dry saturnine humour in the delineation of old Joseph, and some glimpses of grace and gaiety animate the younger Catherine. Nor is even the first heroine of the name destitute of a certain strange beauty in her fierceness, or of honesty in the midst of perverted passion and passionate perversity.

Heathcliff, indeed, stands unredeemed; never once swerving in his arrow-straight course to perdition, from the time when "the little black-haired swarthy thing, as dark as if it came from the Devil," was first unrolled out of the bundle and set on its feet in the farmhouse kitchen, to the hour when Nelly Dean found the grim, stalwart corpse laid on its back in the panel-enclosed bed, with wide-gazing eyes that seemed "to sneer at her attempt to close them, and parted lips and sharp white teeth that sneered too."

Heathcliff betrays one solitary human feeling, and that is not his love for Catherine; which is a sentiment fierce and inhuman: a passion such as might boil and glow in the bad essence of some evil genius; a fire that might form the tormented centre - the ever-suffering soul of a magnate of the infernal world: and by its quenchless and ceaseless ravage effect the execution of the decree which dooms him to carry Hell with him wherever he wanders. No; the single link that connects Heathcliff with humanity is his rudely-confessed regard for Hareton Earnshaw - the young man whom he has ruined; and then his half-implied esteem for Nelly Dean. These solitary traits omitted, we should say he was child neither of Lascar nor gipsy, but a man's shape animated by demon life - a Ghoul - an Afreet.

Whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know: I scarcely think it is. But this I know: the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master - something that, at times, strangely wills and works for itself. He may lay down rules and devise principles, and to rules and principles it will perhaps for years lie in subjection; and then, haply without any warning of revolt, there comes a time when it will no longer consent to "harrow the valleys, or be bound with a band in the furrow" - when it "laughs at the multitude of the city, and regards not the crying of the driver" - when, refusing absolutely to make ropes out of sea-sand any longer, it sets to work on statue-hewing, and you have a Pluto or a Jove, a Tisiphone or a Psyche, a Mermaid or a Madonna, as Fate or Inspiration direct. Be the work grim or glorious, dread or divine, you have little choice left but quiescent adoption. As for you - the nominal artist - your share in it has been to work passively under dictates you neither delivered nor could question - that would not be uttered at your prayer, nor suppressed nor changed at your caprice. If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you, who almost as little deserve blame.

Wuthering Heights was hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of homely materials. The statuary found a granite block on a solitary moor; gazing thereon, he saw how from the crag might be elicited a head, savage, swart, sinister; a form moulded with at least one element of grandeur - power. He wrought with a rude chisel, and from no model but the vision of his meditations. With time and labour, the crag took human shape; and there it stands colossal, dark, and frowning, half statue, half rock: in the former sense, terrible and goblin-like; in the latter, almost beautiful, for its colouring is of mellow grey, and moorland moss clothes it; and heath, with its blooming bells and balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the giant's foot.


Charlotte Mew's essay on the poems of Emily Bronte was designed as the introduction to a collection that would make them more easily available in the early years of the 20th century. This was not to be, and the essay was published as a separate article in 1904. I plan to reproduce it here with the poems. The ideas in this essay are paralleled by those in a short story (apparently unpublished in her lifetime) that Charlotte called Elinor. This is available in the Carcanet selection of Charlotte Mew's works.