Poems (1850)
by the

Brontė Sisters

from the 1846 edition:

 by Anne Brontė
A Reminiscence
The Arbour
Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas
The Penitent
Music on Christmas Morning
If This Be All
To Cowper
The Doubter's Prrayer
A Word to the "Elect"
Past Days
The Consolation
Lines Composed in a Wood on a Windy Day
Views of Life
The Student's Serenade
The Captive Dove

 by Emily Brontė
Faith and Despondency
The Philosopher
A Death Scene
The Prisoner
A Day Dream
How Clear She Shines
Plead for Me
Stanzas to ----
Honour's Martyr
My Comforter
The Old Stoic

 by Charlotte Brontė
Pilate's Wife's Dream
The Wife's Will
The Wood
The Letter
The Teacher's Monologue
Eveining Solace
Winter Stores
The Missionary

from the 1850 edition:

 from the "literary remains" of Emily Brontė
A Little While, A Little While
The Bluebell
Loud Without the Wind was Roaring
Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee
The Night Wind
It Wakes To-Night
Love and Friendship
The Elder's Rebuke
The Wanderer from the Fold
Warning and Reply
Last Words
The Lady to Her Guitar
The Two Children
The Visionary
No Coward Soul is Mine
 from the "literary remains" of Anne Brontė
A Prayer
In Memory of a Happy Day in February
Lines Written from Home
The Narrow Way
Domestic Peace
The Three Guides
Hoped, That With The Brave And Strong

Poets' Corner Scripting
© 2009 S.L. Spanoudis and
All rights reserved worldwide.

Click to return to Poets' Corner
Poems, by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

(Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontė)

(Originally published in 1846, this text is trom the 1850 edition,
with comments and additional selctions added by Charlotte)

The Bronte Sisters
Portrait of the sisters (Anne, Emily and Charlotte) by their brother, Branwell. He originally
included himself in the center of the portrait, but painted himself
out. A shadow of his outline remains. [ca. 1834]


. Pilate's Wife's Dream

    I'VE quench'd my lamp, I struck it in that start
    Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall--
    The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart
    Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall;
    Over against my bed, there shone a gleam
    Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.

    It sank, and I am wrapt in utter gloom;
    How far is night advanced, and when will day
    Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom,
    And fill this void with warm, creative ray?
    Would I could sleep again till, clear and red,
    Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread!

    I'd call my women, but to break their sleep,
    Because my own is broken, were unjust;
    They've wrought all day, and well-earn'd slumbers steep
    Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust;
    Let me my feverish watch with patience bear,
    Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.

    Yet, oh, for light! one ray would tranquillize
    My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can;
    I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies:
    These trembling stars at dead of night look wan,
    Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear
    Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.

    All black--one great cloud, drawn from east to west,
    Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below;
    Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast
    On yonder stony mount a lurid glow.
    I see men station'd there, and gleaming spears;
    A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.

    Dull, measured strokes of axe and hammer ring
    From street to street, not loud, but through the night
    Distinctly heard--and some strange spectral thing
    Is now uprear'd--and, fix'd against the light
    Of the pale lamps, defined upon that sky,
    It stands up like a column, straight and high.

    I see it all--I know the dusky sign--
    A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear
    While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine
    Pilate, to judge the victim, will appear--
    Pass sentence-yield Him up to crucify;
    And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.

    Dreams, then, are true--for thus my vision ran;
    Surely some oracle has been with me,
    The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan,
    To warn an unjust judge of destiny:
    I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know,
    Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.

    I do not weep for Pilate--who could prove
    Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway
    No prayer can soften, no appeal can move:
    Who tramples hearts as others trample clay,
    Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread,
    That might stir up reprisal in the dead.

    Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds;
    Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour,
    In whose gaunt lines the abhorrent gazer reads
    A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power;
    A soul whom motives fierce, yet abject, urge--
    Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.

    How can I love, or mourn, or pity him?
    I, who so long my fetter'd hands have wrung;
    I, who for grief have wept my eyesight dim;
    Because, while life for me was bright and young,
    He robb'd my youth--he quench'd my life's fair ray--
    He crush'd my mind, and did my freedom slay.

    And at this hour-although I be his wife--
    He has no more of tenderness from me
    Than any other wretch of guilty life;
    Less, for I know his household privacy--
    I see him as he is--without a screen;
    And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien!

    Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood--
    Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly?
    And have I not his red salute withstood?
    Ay, when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee
    In dark bereavement--in affliction sore,
    Mingling their very offerings with their gore.

    Then came he--in his eyes a serpent-smile,
    Upon his lips some false, endearing word,
    And through the streets of Salem clang'd the while
    His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword--
    And I, to see a man cause men such woe,
    Trembled with ire--I did not fear to show.

    And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought
    Jesus--whom they in mock'ry call their king--
    To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought;
    By this mean reptile, innocence to sting.
    Oh! could I but the purposed doom avert,
    And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt!

    Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear,
    Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf;
    Could he this night's appalling vision hear,
    This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe,
    Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail,
    And make even terror to their malice quail.

    Yet if I tell the dream--but let me pause.
    What dream? Erewhile the characters were clear,
    Graved on my brain--at once some unknown cause
    Has dimm'd and razed the thoughts, which now appear,
    Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene;--
    Not what will be, but what, long since, has been.

    I suffer'd many things--I heard foretold
    A dreadful doom for Pilate,--lingering woes,
    In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold
    Built up a solitude of trackless snows,
    There he and grisly wolves prowl'd side by side,
    There he lived famish'd--there, methought, he died;

    But not of hunger, nor by malady;
    I saw the snow around him, stain'd with gore;
    I said I had no tears for such as he,
    And, lo! my cheek is wet--mine eyes run o'er;
    I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt,
    I weep the impious deed, the blood self-spilt.

    More I recall not, yet the vision spread
    Into a world remote, an age to come--
    And still the illumined name of Jesus shed
    A light, a clearness, through the unfolding gloom--
    And still I saw that sign, which now I see,
    That cross on yonder brow of Calvary.

    What is this Hebrew Christ?-to me unknown
    His lineage--doctrine--mission; yet how clear
    Is God-like goodness in his actions shown,
    How straight and stainless is his life's career!
    The ray of Deity that rests on him,
    In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim.

    The world advances; Greek or Roman rite
    Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay;
    The searching soul demands a purer light
    To guide it on its upward, onward way;
    Ashamed of sculptured gods, Religion turns
    To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns.

    Our faith is rotten, all our rites defiled,
    Our temples sullied, and, methinks, this man,
    With his new ordinance, so wise and mild,
    Is come, even as He says, the chaff to fan
    And sever from the wheat; but will his faith
    Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death?

    *    *    *   *   *    *    *

    I feel a firmer trust--a higher hope
    Rise in my soul--it dawns with dawning day;
    Lo! on the Temple's roof--on Moriah's slope
    Appears at length that clear and crimson ray
    Which I so wished for when shut in by night;
    Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless pour light!

    Part, clouds and shadows! Glorious Sun appear!
    Part, mental gloom! Come insight from on high!
    Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear
    The longing soul doth still uncertain sigh.
    Oh! to behold the truth--that sun divine,
    How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine!

    This day, Time travails with a mighty birth;
    This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth;
    Ere night descends I shall more surely know
    What guide to follow, in what path to go;
    I wait in hope--I wait in solemn fear,
    The oracle of God--the sole--true God--to hear.

    Charlotte Bronte


. Mementos

    ARRANGING long-locked drawers and shelves
    Of cabinets, shut up for years,
    What a strange task we've set ourselves!
    How still the lonely room appears!
    How strange this mass of ancient treasures,
    Mementos of past pains and pleasures;
    These volumes, clasped with costly stone,
    With print all faded, gilding gone;

    These fans of leaves from Indian trees--
    These crimson shells, from Indian seas--
    These tiny portraits, set in rings--
    Once, doubtless, deemed such precious things;
    Keepsakes bestowed by Love on Faith,
    And worn till the receiver's death,
    Now stored with cameos, china, shells,
    In this old closet's dusty cells.

    I scarcely think, for ten long years,
    A hand has touched these relics old;
    And, coating each, slow-formed, appears
    The growth of green and antique mould.

    All in this house is mossing over;
    All is unused, and dim, and damp;
    Nor light, nor warmth, the rooms discover--
    Bereft for years of fire and lamp.

    The sun, sometimes in summer, enters
    The casements, with reviving ray;
    But the long rains of many winters
    Moulder the very walls away.

    And outside all is ivy, clinging
    To chimney, lattice, gable grey;
    Scarcely one little red rose springing
    Through the green moss can force its way.

    Unscared, the daw and starling nestle,
    Where the tall turret rises high,
    And winds alone come near to rustle
    The thick leaves where their cradles lie,

    I sometimes think, when late at even
    I climb the stair reluctantly,
    Some shape that should be well in heaven,
    Or ill elsewhere, will pass by me.

    I fear to see the very faces,
    Familiar thirty years ago,
    Even in the old accustomed places
    Which look so cold and gloomy now,

    I've come, to close the window, hither,
    At twilight, when the sun was down,
    And Fear my very soul would wither,
    Lest something should be dimly shown,

    Too much the buried form resembling,
    Of her who once was mistress here;
    Lest doubtful shade, or moonbeam trembling,
    Might take her aspect, once so dear.

    Hers was this chamber; in her time
    It seemed to me a pleasant room,
    For then no cloud of grief or crime
    Had cursed it with a settled gloom;

    I had not seen death's image laid
    In shroud and sheet, on yonder bed.
    Before she married, she was blest--
    Blest in her youth, blest in her worth;
    Her mind was calm, its sunny rest
    Shone in her eyes more clear than mirth.

    And when attired in rich array,
    Light, lustrous hair about her brow,
    She yonder sat, a kind of day
    Lit up what seems so gloomy now.
    These grim oak walls even then were grim;
    That old carved chair was then antique;
    But what around looked dusk and dim
    Served as a foil to her fresh cheek;
    Her neck and arms, of hue so fair,
    Eyes of unclouded, smiling light;
    Her soft, and curled, and floating hair,
    Gems and attire, as rainbow bright.

    Reclined in yonder deep recess,
    Ofttimes she would, at evening, lie
    Watching the sun; she seemed to bless
    With happy glance the glorious sky.
    She loved such scenes, and as she gazed,
    Her face evinced her spirit's mood;
    Beauty or grandeur ever raised
    In her, a deep-felt gratitude.
    But of all lovely things, she loved
    A cloudless moon, on summer night,
    Full oft have I impatience proved
    To see how long her still delight
    Would find a theme in reverie,
    Out on the lawn, or where the trees
    Let in the lustre fitfully,
    As their boughs parted momently,
    To the soft, languid, summer breeze.
    Alas! that she should e'er have flung
    Those pure, though lonely joys away--
    Deceived by false and guileful tongue,
    She gave her hand, then suffered wrong;
    Oppressed, ill-used, she faded young,
    And died of grief by slow decay.

    Open that casket-look how bright
    Those jewels flash upon the sight;
    The brilliants have not lost a ray
    Of lustre, since her wedding day.
    But see--upon that pearly chain--
    How dim lies Time's discolouring stain!
    I've seen that by her daughter worn:
    For, ere she died, a child was born;--
    A child that ne'er its mother knew,
    That lone, and almost friendless grew;
    For, ever, when its step drew nigh,
    Averted was the father's eye;
    And then, a life impure and wild
    Made him a stranger to his child:
    Absorbed in vice, he little cared
    On what she did, or how she fared.
    The love withheld she never sought,
    She grew uncherished--learnt untaught;
    To her the inward life of thought
    Full soon was open laid.
    I know not if her friendlessness
    Did sometimes on her spirit press,
    But plaint she never made.
    The book-shelves were her darling treasure,
    She rarely seemed the time to measure
    While she could read alone.
    And she too loved the twilight wood
    And often, in her mother's mood,
    Away to yonder hill would hie,
    Like her, to watch the setting sun,
    Or see the stars born, one by one,
    Out of the darkening sky.
    Nor would she leave that hill till night
    Trembled from pole to pole with light;
    Even then, upon her homeward way,
    Long--long her wandering steps delayed
    To quit the sombre forest shade,
    Through which her eerie pathway lay.
    You ask if she had beauty's grace?
    I know not--but a nobler face
    My eyes have seldom seen;
    A keen and fine intelligence,
    And, better still, the truest sense
    Were in her speaking mien.
    But bloom or lustre was there none,
    Only at moments, fitful shone
    An ardour in her eye,
    That kindled on her cheek a flush,
    Warm as a red sky's passing blush
    And quick with energy.
    Her speech, too, was not common speech,
    No wish to shine, or aim to teach,
    Was in her words displayed:
    She still began with quiet sense,
    But oft the force of eloquence
    Came to her lips in aid;
    Language and voice unconscious changed,
    And thoughts, in other words arranged,
    Her fervid soul transfused
    Into the hearts of those who heard,
    And transient strength and ardour stirred,
    In minds to strength unused,
    Yet in gay crowd or festal glare,
    Grave and retiring was her air;
    'Twas seldom, save with me alone,
    That fire of feeling freely shone;
    She loved not awe's nor wonder's gaze,
    Nor even exaggerated praise,
    Nor even notice, if too keen
    The curious gazer searched her mien.
    Nature's own green expanse revealed
    The world, the pleasures, she could prize;
    On free hill-side, in sunny field,
    In quiet spots by woods concealed,
    Grew wild and fresh her chosen joys,
    Yet Nature's feelings deeply lay
    In that endowed and youthful frame;
    Shrined in her heart and hid from day,
    They burned unseen with silent flame.
    In youth's first search for mental light,
    She lived but to reflect and learn,
    But soon her mind's maturer might
    For stronger task did pant and yearn;
    And stronger task did fate assign,
    Task that a giant's strength might strain;
    To suffer long and ne'er repine,
    Be calm in frenzy, smile at pain.

    Pale with the secret war of feeling,
    Sustained with courage, mute, yet high;
    The wounds at which she bled, revealing
    Only by altered cheek and eye;

    She bore in silence--but when passion
    Surged in her soul with ceaseless foam,
    The storm at last brought desolation,
    And drove her exiled from her home.

    And silent still, she straight assembled
    The wrecks of strength her soul retained;
    For though the wasted body trembled,
    The unconquered mind, to quail, disdained.

    She crossed the sea--now lone she wanders
    By Seine's, or Rhine's, or Arno's flow;
    Fain would I know if distance renders
    Relief or comfort to her woe.

    Fain would I know if, henceforth, ever,
    These eyes shall read in hers again,
    That light of love which faded never,
    Though dimmed so long with secret pain.

    She will return, but cold and altered,
    Like all whose hopes too soon depart;
    Like all on whom have beat, unsheltered,
    The bitter blasts that blight the heart.

    No more shall I behold her lying
    Calm on a pillow, smoothed by me;
    No more that spirit, worn with sighing,
    Will know the rest of infancy.

    If still the paths of lore she follow,
    'Twill be with tired and goaded will;
    She'll only toil, the aching hollow,
    The joyless blank of life to fill.

    And oh! full oft, quite spent and weary,
    Her hand will pause, her head decline;
    That labour seems so hard and dreary,
    On which no ray of hope may shine.

    Thus the pale blight of time and sorrow
    Will shade with grey her soft, dark hair;
    Then comes the day that knows no morrow,
    And death succeeds to long despair.

    So speaks experience, sage and hoary;
    I see it plainly, know it well,
    Like one who, having read a story,
    Each incident therein can tell.

    Touch not that ring; 'twas his, the sire
    Of that forsaken child;
    And nought his relics can inspire
    Save memories, sin-defiled.

    I, who sat by his wife's death-bed,
    I, who his daughter loved,
    Could almost curse the guilty dead,
    For woes the guiltless proved.

    And heaven did curse--they found him laid,
    When crime for wrath was rife,
    Cold--with the suicidal blade
    Clutched in his desperate gripe.

    'Twas near that long deserted hut,
    Which in the wood decays,
    Death's axe, self-wielded, struck his root,
    And lopped his desperate days.

    You know the spot, where three black trees,
    Lift up their branches fell,
    And moaning, ceaseless as the seas,
    Still seem, in every passing breeze,
    The deed of blood to tell.

    They named him mad, and laid his bones
    Where holier ashes lie;
    Yet doubt not that his spirit groans
    In hell's eternity.

    But, lo! night, closing o'er the earth,
    Infects our thoughts with gloom;
    Come, let us strive to rally mirth
    Where glows a clear and tranquil hearth
    In some more cheerful room.

    Charlotte Bronte


. The Wife's Will

    SIT still--a word--a breath may break
    (As light airs stir a sleeping lake)
    The glassy calm that soothes my woes--
    The sweet, the deep, the full repose.
    O leave me not! for ever be
    Thus, more than life itself to me!

    Yes, close beside thee let me kneel--
    Give me thy hand, that I may feel
    The friend so true--so tried--so dear,
    My heart's own chosen--indeed is near;
    And check me not--this hour divine
    Belongs to me--is fully mine.

    'Tis thy own hearth thou sitt'st beside,
    After long absence--wandering wide;
    'Tis thy own wife reads in thine eyes
    A promise clear of stormless skies;
    For faith and true love light the rays
    Which shine responsive to her gaze.

    Ay,--well that single tear may fall;
    Ten thousand might mine eyes recall,
    Which from their lids ran blinding fast,
    In hours of grief, yet scarcely past;
    Well mayst thou speak of love to me,
    For, oh! most truly--I love thee!

    Yet smile--for we are happy now.
    Whence, then, that sadness on thy brow?
    What sayst thou?" We muse once again,
    Ere long, be severed by the main!"
    I knew not this--I deemed no more
    Thy step would err from Britain's shore.

    "Duty commands!" 'Tis true--'tis just;
    Thy slightest word I wholly trust,
    Nor by request, nor faintest sigh,
    Would I to turn thy purpose try;
    But, William, hear my solemn vow--
    Hear and confirm!--with thee I go.

    "Distance and suffering," didst thou say?
    "Danger by night, and toil by day?"
    Oh, idle words and vain are these;
    Hear me! I cross with thee the seas.
    Such risk as thou must meet and dare,
    I--thy true wife--will duly share.

    Passive, at home, I will not pine;
    Thy toils, thy perils shall be mine;
    Grant this--and be hereafter paid
    By a warm heart's devoted aid:
    'Tis granted--with that yielding kiss,
    Entered my soul unmingled bliss.

    Thanks, William, thanks! thy love has joy,
    Pure, undefiled with base alloy;
    'Tis not a passion, false and blind,
    Inspires, enchains, absorbs my mind;
    Worthy, I feel, art thou to be
    Loved with my perfect energy.

    This evening now shall sweetly flow,
    Lit by our clear fire's happy glow;
    And parting's peace-embittering fear,
    Is warned our hearts to come not near;
    For fate admits my soul's decree,
    In bliss or bale--to go with thee!

    Charlotte Bronte


. The Wood

    BUT two miles more, and then we rest!
    Well, there is still an hour of day,
    And long the brightness of the West
    Will light us on our devious way;
    Sit then, awhile, here in this wood--
    So total is the solitude,
    We safely may delay.

    These massive roots afford a seat,
    Which seems for weary travellers made.
    There rest. The air is soft and sweet
    In this sequestered forest glade,
    And there are scents of flowers around,
    The evening dew draws from the ground;
    How soothingly they spread!

    Yes; I was tired, but not at heart;
    No--that beats full of sweet content,
    For now I have my natural part
    Of action with adventure blent;
    Cast forth on the wide world with thee,
    And all my once waste energy
    To weighty purpose bent.

    Yet--sayst thou, spies around us roam,
    Our aims are termed conspiracy?
    Haply, no more our English home
    An anchorage for us may be?
    That there is risk our mutual blood
    May redden in some lonely wood
    The knife of treachery?

    Sayst thou, that where we lodge each night,
    In each lone farm, or lonelier hall
    Of Norman Peer--ere morning light
    Suspicion must as duly fall,
    As day returns--such vigilance
    Presides and watches over France,
    Such rigour governs all?

    I fear not, William; dost thou fear?
    So that the knife does not divide,
    It may be ever hovering near:
    I could not tremble at thy side,
    And strenuous love--like mine for thee--
    Is buckler strong 'gainst treachery,
    And turns its stab aside.

    I am resolved that thou shalt learn
    To trust my strength as I trust thine;
    I am resolved our souls shall burn
    With equal, steady, mingling shine;
    Part of the field is conquered now,
    Our lives in the same channel flow,
    Along the self-same line;

    And while no groaning storm is heard,
    Thou seem'st content it should be so,
    But soon as comes a warning word
    Of danger--straight thine anxious brow
    Bends over me a mournful shade,
    As doubting if my powers are made
    To ford the floods of woe.

    Know, then it is my spirit swells,
    And drinks, with eager joy, the air
    Of freedom--where at last it dwells,
    Chartered, a common task to share
    With thee, and then it stirs alert,
    And pants to learn what menaced hurt
    Demands for thee its care.

    Remember, I have crossed the deep,
    And stood with thee on deck, to gaze
    On waves that rose in threatening heap,
    While stagnant lay a heavy haze,
    Dimly confusing sea with sky,
    And baffling, even, the pilot's eye,
    Intent to thread the maze--

    Of rocks, on Bretagne's dangerous coast,
    And find a way to steer our band
    To the one point obscure, which lost,
    Flung us, as victims, on the strand;--
    All, elsewhere, gleamed the Gallic sword,
    And not a wherry could be moored
    Along the guarded land.

    I feared not then--I fear not now;
    The interest of each stirring scene
    Wakes a new sense, a welcome glow,
    In every nerve and bounding vein;
    Alike on turbid Channel sea,
    Or in still wood of Normandy,
    I feel as born again.

    The rain descended that wild morn
    When, anchoring in the cove at last,
    Our band, all weary and forlorn
    Ashore, like wave-worn sailors, cast--
    Sought for a sheltering roof in vain,
    And scarce could scanty food obtain
    To break their morning fast.

    Thou didst thy crust with me divide,
    Thou didst thy cloak around me fold;
    And, sitting silent by thy side,
    I ate the bread in peace untold:
    Given kindly from thy hand, 'twas sweet
    As costly fare or princely treat
    On royal plate of gold.

    Sharp blew the sleet upon my face,
    And, rising wild, the gusty wind
    Drove on those thundering waves apace,
    Our crew so late had left behind;
    But, spite of frozen shower and storm,
    So close to thee, my heart beat warm,
    And tranquil slept my mind.

    So now--nor foot-sore nor opprest
    With walking all this August day,
    I taste a heaven in this brief rest,
    This gipsy-halt beside the way.
    England's wild flowers are fair to view,
    Like balm is England's summer dew
    Like gold her sunset ray.

    But the white violets, growing here,
    Are sweeter than I yet have seen,
    And ne'er did dew so pure and clear
    Distil on forest mosses green,
    As now, called forth by summer heat,
    Perfumes our cool and fresh retreat--
    These fragrant limes between.

    That sunset! Look beneath the boughs,
    Over the copse--beyond the hills;
    How soft, yet deep and warm it glows,
    And heaven with rich suffusion fills;
    With hues where still the opal's tint,
    Its gleam of prisoned fire is blent,
    Where flame through azure thrills!

    Depart we now--for fast will fade
    That solemn splendour of decline,
    And deep must be the after-shade
    As stars alone to-night will shine;
    No moon is destined--pale--to gaze
    On such a day's vast Phoenix blaze,
    A day in fires decayed!

    There--hand-in-hand we tread again
    The mazes of this varying wood,
    And soon, amid a cultured plain,
    Girt in with fertile solitude,
    We shall our resting-place descry,
    Marked by one roof-tree, towering high
    Above a farmstead rude.

    Refreshed, erelong, with rustic fare,
    We'll seek a couch of dreamless ease;
    Courage will guard thy heart from fear,
    And Love give mine divinest peace:
    To-morrow brings more dangerous toil,
    And through its conflict and turmoil
    We'll pass, as God shall please.

    "[The preceding composition refers, doubtless, to the scenes
    acted in France during the last year of the Consulate.]"

    Charlotte Bronte


. Frances

    SHE will not sleep, for fear of dreams,
    But, rising, quits her restless bed,
    And walks where some beclouded beams
    Of moonlight through the hall are shed.

    Obedient to the goad of grief,
    Her steps, now fast, now lingering slow,
    In varying motion seek relief
    From the Eumenides of woe.

    Wringing her hands, at intervals--
    But long as mute as phantom dim--
    She glides along the dusky walls,
    Under the black oak rafters grim.,p>
    The close air of the grated tower
    Stifles a heart that scarce can beat,
    And, though so late and lone the hour,
    Forth pass her wandering, faltering feet;

    And on the pavement spread before
    The long front of the mansion grey,
    Her steps imprint the night-frost hoar,
    Which pale on grass and granite lay.

    Not long she stayed where misty moon
    And shimmering stars could on her look,
    But through the garden archway soon
    Her strange and gloomy path she took.

    Some firs, coeval with the tower,
    Their straight black boughs stretched o'er her head;
    Unseen, beneath this sable bower,
    Rustled her dress and rapid tread.

    There was an alcove in that shade,
    Screening a rustic seat and stand;
    Weary she sat her down, and laid
    Her hot brow on her burning hand.

    To solitude and to the night,
    Some words she now, in murmurs, said;
    And trickling through her fingers white,
    Some tears of misery she shed.

    "God help me in my grievous need,
    God help me in my inward pain;
    Which cannot ask for pity's meed,
    Which has no licence to complain,

    "Which must be borne; yet who can bear,
    Hours long, days long, a constant weight--
    The yoke of absolute despair,
    A suffering wholly desolate?

    "Who can for ever crush the heart,
    Restrain its throbbing, curb its life?
    Dissemble truth with ceaseless art,
    With outward calm mask inward strife?"

    She waited--as for some reply;
    The still and cloudy night gave none;
    Ere long, with deep-drawn, trembling sigh,
    Her heavy plaint again begun.

    "Unloved--I love; unwept--I weep;
    Grief I restrain--hope I repress:
    Vain is this anguish--fixed and deep;
    Vainer, desires and dreams of bliss.

    "My love awakes no love again,
    My tears collect, and fall unfelt;
    My sorrow touches none with pain,
    My humble hopes to nothing melt.

    "For me the universe is dumb,
    Stone-deaf, and blank, and wholly blind;
    Life I must bound, existence sum
    In the strait limits of one mind;

    "That mind my own. Oh! narrow cell;
    Dark--imageless--a living tomb!
    There must I sleep, there wake and dwell
    Content, with palsy, pain, and gloom."

    Again she paused; a moan of pain,
    A stifled sob, alone was heard;
    Long silence followed--then again
    Her voice the stagnant midnight stirred.

    "Must it be so? Is this my fate?
    Can I nor struggle, nor contend?
    And am I doomed for years to wait,
    Watching death's lingering axe descend?

    "And when it falls, and when I die,
    What follows? Vacant nothingness?
    The blank of lost identity?
    Erasure both of pain and bliss?

    "I've heard of heaven--I would believe;
    For if this earth indeed be all,
    Who longest lives may deepest grieve;
    Most blest, whom sorrows soonest call.

    "Oh! leaving disappointment here,
    Will man find hope on yonder coast?
    Hope, which, on earth, shines never clear,
    And oft in clouds is wholly lost.

    "Will he hope's source of light behold,
    Fruition's spring, where doubts expire,
    And drink, in waves of living gold,
    Contentment, full, for long desire?

    "Will he find bliss, which here he dreamed?
    Rest, which was weariness on earth?
    Knowledge, which, if o'er life it beamed,
    Served but to prove it void of worth?

    "Will he find love without lust's leaven,
    Love fearless, tearless, perfect, pure,
    To all with equal bounty given;
    In all, unfeigned, unfailing, sure?

    "Will he, from penal sufferings free,
    Released from shroud and wormy clod,
    All calm and glorious, rise and see
    Creation's Sire--Existence' God?

    "Then, glancing back on Time's brief woes,
    Will he behold them, fading, fly;
    Swept from Eternity's repose,
    Like sullying cloud from pure blue sky?

    "If so, endure, my weary frame;
    And when thy anguish strikes too deep,
    And when all troubled burns life's flame,
    Think of the quiet, final sleep;

    "Think of the glorious waking-hour,
    Which will not dawn on grief and tears,
    But on a ransomed spirit's power,
    Certain, and free from mortal fears.

    "Seek now thy couch, and lie till morn,
    Then from thy chamber, calm, descend,
    With mind nor tossed, nor anguish-torn,
    But tranquil, fixed, to wait the end.

    "And when thy opening eyes shall see
    Mementos, on the chamber wall,
    Of one who has forgotten thee,
    Shed not the tear of acrid gall.

    "The tear which, welling from the heart,
    Burns where its drop corrosive falls,
    And makes each nerve, in torture, start,
    At feelings it too well recalls:

    "When the sweet hope of being loved
    Threw Eden sunshine on life's way:
    When every sense and feeling proved
    Expectancy of brightest day.

    "When the hand trembled to receive
    A thrilling clasp, which seemed so near,
    And the heart ventured to believe
    Another heart esteemed it dear.

    "When words, half love, all tenderness,
    Were hourly heard, as hourly spoken,
    When the long, sunny days of bliss
    Only by moonlight nights were broken.

    "Till, drop by drop, the cup of joy
    Filled full, with purple light was glowing,
    And Faith, which watched it, sparkling high
    Still never dreamt the overflowing.

    "It fell not with a sudden crashing,
    It poured not out like open sluice;
    No, sparkling still, and redly flashing,
    Drained, drop by drop, the generous juice.

    "I saw it sink, and strove to taste it,
    My eager lips approached the brim;
    The movement only seemed to waste it;
    It sank to dregs, all harsh and dim.

    "These I have drunk, and they for ever
    Have poisoned life and love for me;
    A draught from Sodom's lake could never
    More fiery, salt, and bitter, be.

    "Oh! Love was all a thin illusion
    Joy, but the desert's flying stream;
    And glancing back on long delusion,
    My memory grasps a hollow dream.

    "Yet whence that wondrous change of feeling,
    I never knew, and cannot learn;
    Nor why my lover's eye, congealing,
    Grew cold and clouded, proud and stern.

    "Nor wherefore, friendship's forms forgetting,
    He careless left, and cool withdrew;
    Nor spoke of grief, nor fond regretting,
    Nor ev'n one glance of comfort threw.

    "And neither word nor token sending,
    Of kindness, since the parting day,
    His course, for distant regions bending,
    Went, self-contained and calm, away.

    "Oh, bitter, blighting, keen sensation,
    Which will not weaken, cannot die,
    Hasten thy work of desolation,
    And let my tortured spirit fly!

    "Vain as the passing gale, my crying;
    Though lightning-struck, I must live on;
    I know, at heart, there is no dying
    Of love, and ruined hope, alone.

    "Still strong and young, and warm with vigour,
    Though scathed, I long shall greenly grow;
    And many a storm of wildest rigour
    Shall yet break o'er my shivered bough.
    "Rebellious now to blank inertion,
    My unused strength demands a task;
    Travel, and toil, and full exertion,
    Are the last, only boon I ask.

    "Whence, then, this vain and barren dreaming
    Of death, and dubious life to come?
    I see a nearer beacon gleaming
    Over dejection's sea of gloom.

    "The very wildness of my sorrow
    Tells me I yet have innate force;
    My track of life has been too narrow,
    Effort shall trace a broader course.

    "The world is not in yonder tower,
    Earth is not prisoned in that room,
    'Mid whose dark panels, hour by hour,
    I've sat, the slave and prey of gloom.

    "One feeling--turned to utter anguish,
    Is not my being's only aim;
    When, lorn and loveless, life will languish,
    But courage can revive the flame.

    "He, when he left me, went a roving
    To sunny climes, beyond the sea;
    And I, the weight of woe removing,
    Am free and fetterless as he.

    "New scenes, new language, skies less clouded,
    May once more wake the wish to live;
    Strange, foreign towns, astir, and crowded,
    New pictures to the mind may give.

    "New forms and faces, passing ever,
    May hide the one I still retain,
    Defined, and fixed, and fading never,
    Stamped deep on vision, heart, and brain.

    "And we might meet--time may have changed him;
    Chance may reveal the mystery,
    The secret influence which estranged him;
    Love may restore him yet to me.

    "False thought--false hope--in scorn be banished!
    I am not loved--nor loved have been;
    Recall not, then, the dreams scarce vanished;
    Traitors! mislead me not again!

    "To words like yours I bid defiance,
    'Tis such my mental wreck have made;
    Of God alone, and self-reliance,
    I ask for solace--hope for aid.

    "Morn comes--and ere meridian glory
    O'er these, my natal woods, shall smile,
    Both lonely wood and mansion hoary
    I'll leave behind, full many a mile."

    Charlotte Bronte

More Poems by Charlotte Bronte

Poets' Corner - Home . The Other Pages

©1994-2020 Poets' Corner Editorial Staff, All Rights Reserved Worldwide