Category Archives: Emily Bronte

‘Remembrance’ by Emily Bronte

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 forever, 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?

Here is another of Emily Bronte’s poems. I love this one, and it reminds me a lot of Wuthering Heights, because of the idea of endless, eternal love that defeats even death. Emily was very preoccupied with this subject, and it is no wonder, because her life was so full of death from her earliest years. The oldest Bronte sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died while they were still children, from consumption. Emily Bronte had to live with that awful memory until she was also taken by the disease… Something I always find so inspiring in Emily Bronte is the way in which she held on to the idea of love, even though she was painfully aware of her own — and her family’s — mortality.

This poem understands how grief can be a “rapturous pain” — something addictive and necessary to the griever. Emily calls it a “divinest anguish”, and acknowledges that very human phenomenon whereby we become attached to our grief, because it is the only chord that sill connects us to our loved-one who has died. As always, Bronte displays an incredibly intimate understanding and knowledge of the deepest undercurrents of human nature and psychology. I love this one!

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘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

‘No coward soul is mine’ by Emily Bronte

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 hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality,

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

I have to do an Emily Bronte poem, because Wuthering Heights has been an obsession of mine from the time I first read it at the age of 14. Since then I have read the novel at least once every year. I love it. I love Heathcliff and his diabolical nature; I love the fact that he loves Cathy so fiercely that he would inflict misery on anyone who did her harm or tried to take her from him… and their families, even for generations into the future. I am aware that it is kind of twisted and strange. I am, really. I don’t know why I love it, but I do. It is the uncompromising ferocity of Heathcliff’s love. The love between Cathy and Heathcliff in that novel is a simple necessity, a bond between two souls that cannot be broken. Reading Cathy’s words, “Nelly, I am Heathcliff”, well, it gives me goosebumps every time.

So, on with the poem. ‘No coward soul is mine’ is probably my favourite poem by Emily Bronte. I have read most of her other poems because, as a Bronte obsessive, I have a copy of her complete works that I kept by my bed for a few years and during those years I got through most of them. There is certainly something naïve about her poems, but they are also heroic.  To me they feel distinctly adolescent, but there are also glimpses of the majestic in them.

I love the authority in Emily Bronte’s tone in this poem. That opening is one that definitely takes hold in your mind — you don’t forget it. I love the phrase, “storm-troubled sphere”. I don’t know if Emily knew that she had tuberculosis when she wrote this poem, but I like to imagine that she wrote this in defiance of the illness that would eventually kill her. It would be typical of her courageous nature. Charlotte Bronte, her sister, described her as “stronger than a man, simpler than a child”. She apparently hated to show weakness – always bore her sufferings alone — and she even refused to see a doctor for her consumption until it was too late. Here, in this poem, you get a sense of her incredible inner strength. She is “armed” with faith, God lives “within [her] breast”; she has “power”.  Yes, this is a powerful poem about faith in God, but Emily Bronte has faith in herself, and that is impossible to ignore here. She evokes her certainty of the immortality of her soul. She calls herself “Undying Life”.
There is something in the spirit of this poem that seems akin to that of Wuthering Heights. Perhaps it is the idea of the immortality of a courageous soul. The stanza that goes,

“Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

reminds me of Cathy and Heathcliff’s love. It is the inseparable nature of two spirits — God and man, or of two lovers. It reminds me of Cathy when she says of Heathcliff, “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” It is the idea that human love can be as immortal as God’s love. I find it incredibly moving and beautiful.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh