This month's topic for the Poetry Project is classic poetry. I immediately thought of the Bronte sisters, who, besides producing those very enduring novels, also wrote copious amounts of poetry. Much of the poetry written by Emily and Anne was for their elaborately constructed fictional world of Gondal. But there were poems that were stand-alone pieces as well.
I could have chosen what is perhaps Emily's most famous poem, No Coward Soul is Mine, but instead I decided to give you a poem each by Emily and Anne that represents them (as well as we can know them, after all).
The Night Wind
In summer's mellow midnight
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window
And rosetrees 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 though hast loved the night
Whose silence wakes my song.
'And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the churchyard stone
I shall have time for mourning
And thou for being alone.'
I feel like this poem, dated Sept. 11, 1840, is a harbinger of Wuthering Heights, which Emily Bronte began writing in late 1845. It's got that same eerie darkness, of voices whispering at windows, and the final closing stanza seems directly related to the last line of Wuthering Heights: "I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth."
And now a poem from perhaps the least-read Bronte sister.
A dreadful darkness closes in
On my bewildered mind;
O let me suffer and not sin,
Be tortured yet resigned.
Through all this world of whelming mist
Still let me look to Thee,
And give me courage to resist
The Tempter till he flee.
Weary I am -- O give me strength
And leave me not to faint;
Say Thou wilt comfort me at length
And pity my complaint.
I've begged to serve Thee heart and soul,
To sacrifice to Thee
No niggard portion, but the whole
Of my identity.
I hoped amid the brave and strong
My portioned task might lie,
To toil amid the labouring throng
With purpose pure and high.
But Thou hast fixed another part,
And Thou hast fixed it well;
I said so with my breaking heart
When first the anguish fell.
For Thou hast taken my delight
And hope of life away,
And bid me watch the painful night
And wait the weary day.
The hope and the delight were Thine;
I bless Thee for their loan;
I gave Thee while I deemed them mine
Too little thanks, I own.
Shall I with joy Thy blessings share
And not endure their loss?
Or hope the martyr's crown to wear
And cast away the cross?
These weary hours will not be lost,
These days of passive misery,
These nights of darkness anguish tost
If I can fix my heart on Thee.
Weak and weary though I lie,
Crushed with sorrow, worn with pain,
Still I may lift to Heaven mine eyes
And strive and labour not in vain,
That inward strife against the sins
That ever wait on suffering;
To watch and strike where first begins
Each ill that would corruption bring,
That secret labour to sustain
With humble patience every blow,
To gather fortitude from pain
And hope and holiness from woe.
Thus let me serve Thee from my heart
Whatever be my written fate,
Whether thus early to depart
Or yet awhile to wait.
If Thou shouldst bring me back to life
More humbled I should be;
More wise, more strengthened for the strife,
More apt to lean on Thee.
Should Death be standing at the gate
Thus should I keep my vow;
But, Lord, whate'er my future fate
So let me serve Thee now.
Anne wrote this poem in January 1849, when she had been diagnosed with consumption with little hope of recovery. However, in February she rallied somewhat and traveled to the seaside town of Scarborough in the hopes that it would save her. But in May, she died and was buried in Scarborough. This poem, written when she thought death was imminent, is incredibly moving, as she tries to rally her religious faith while humbly asking for more time to live.