Tag Archives: myriad voices

‘The Night-Wind’ by Emily Bronte

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 leave me;
Its kiss grew warmer still –
‘O come,’ it sighed so sweetly;
‘I’ll win thee ‘gainst thy will.

‘Have we not been from childhood friends?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou hast loved the night
Whose silence wakes my song.

‘And when thy heart is laid at rest
Beneath the church-yard stone,
I shall have time enough to mourn
And thou to be alone.’

This is one of my favourite poems by Emily Bronte. I am a little bit obsessed with her work as you will have gathered if you read my previous blog about No coward soul is mine.

The Night-Wind is hypnotically sensuous in its language, with the “soft wind” waving the speaker’s hair, its voice whispering “lowly” about “how dark the woods will be”. I think my favourite part is when the Night-Wind says, “The thick leaves in my murmur/ Are murmuring like a dream” — it is so evocative of a natural world that is wild and brimming with life, or “instinct with spirit”, as Bronte writes.

I love the dark, mysterious atmosphere that surrounds this entity or force called the Night-Wind. There is a common theme running through much of Emily Bronte’s work — both in her poetry and, I think, in Wuthering Heights — of the force of nature and the mystical connection that can be felt with it. There is something almost pagan about this poem, as there is certainly something pagan about Wuthering Heights. In that novellove is presented as a sort of religion. In the novel, love is dark and destructive but also all-pervading and eternal. God and Beauty in nature is of course a theme common to the works of Romantic poets such as Wordsworth or Coleridge, but for me Emily Bronte goes further — or at least deeper and darker — than those poets. This is why Emily Bronte’s poetry fascinates me so much: her poems might be in many ways immature (I don’t want to use the word naive because I don’t think Emily was naive) but there is something wild and dark and spiritual about them that is incredibly powerful. And, of course, there are absolutely nothing immature about Wuthering Heights. 

There are different versions of this poem. The one posted above is Emily’s original version. However, Charlotte Bronte (Emily’s sister) edited The Night-Wind after Emily’s death. In Charlotte’s version, the final stanza reads as follows:

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

Charlotte edited much of Emily’s poetry after her death. This particular correction is the most important one that Charlotte made to this poem, and I think it reflects her own grief at the death of her sister. For example, the changing of “church-yard” to “church-aisle” is significant because Emily Bronte was not buried in the church-yard, but beneath the aisle in Haworth Church. Also, I feel like the way Charlotte has changed the verbs from the infinitive to the present continuous (i.e. “laid to rest” becomes “resting”, “to mourn” becomes “mourning” and “to be alone” becomes “for being alone”) demonstrates how her grief has now become Charlotte’s ongoing and bleak reality. Poor Charlotte outlived both Emily and Anne Bronte, and was the only sister to marry, though she also died before she could have children.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh