12 Poems by Anne Brontë

anne bronte

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are best known for their classic novels; each was also a poet in her own right. Though Emily is acknowledged as the finest poet of the trio, Anne’s poetry is more than worthy of consideration. Here are presented 12 poems by Anne Brontë (1820 – 1849).

Anne wrote two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, before her death at age 29. Before the sisters attempted to publish their first novels, Charlotte undertook the task of putting together and finding a home for a collaborative book of their poems, hoping that it would be a stepping stone (it wasn’t, as it turned out). They assumed masculine (or at least vague) noms de plume to disguise their identities. In Charlotte’s words:

“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 section of our poems, and, if possible, get them printed … The book was printed: it is scarcely known … and all of it that merits to be known are the poems of Ellis Bell [Emily].”

The resulting book, The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, published in 1846 at the sisters’ own expense, sold exactly two copies. Learn more about the Brontë sisters’ path to publication.

Anne Brontë: ‘Amid the Brave and Strong’ (published by The Brontë Society, ©2020) offers this brief assessment of Anne as a poet:

“Much of Anne’s poetry is considered to be autobiographical in some way and it often focuses on subjects that were significant in her life at the time of their writing … a constant theme in Anne’s poems is her strong Christian faith, and they are often introspective and sincere, dealing with her struggles to reconcile her religion with her own life experiences.”

Charlotte’s views of Anne’s poetry can be found by scrolling down to the end of this post. All poems by Anne Brontë that follow are from The Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

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Bronte sisters

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A Reminiscence

Yes, thou art gone! and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door,
And pace the floor that covers thee,
May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that, frozen, lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.
Yet, though I cannot see thee more,
‘Tis still a comfort to have seen;
And though thy transient life is o’er,
‘Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;
To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form so angel fair,
United to a heart like thine,
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.

. . . . . . . . . .

 

Home

How brightly glistening in the sun
The woodland ivy plays!
While yonder beeches from their barks
Reflect his silver rays.
That sun surveys a lovely scene
From softly smiling skies;
And wildly through unnumbered trees
The wind of winter sighs:
Now loud, it thunders o’er my head,
And now in distance dies.
But give me back my barren hills
Where colder breezes rise;
Where scarce the scattered, stunted trees
Can yield an answering swell,
But where a wilderness of heath
Returns the sound as well.
For yonder garden, fair and wide,
With groves of evergreen,
Long winding walks, and borders trim,
And velvet lawns between;
Restore to me that little spot,
With gray walls compassed round,
Where knotted grass neglected lies,
And weeds usurp the ground.
Though all around this mansion high
Invites the foot to roam,
And though its halls are fair within—
Oh, give me back my HOME!

. . . . . . . . . .

The Penitent

I mourn with thee, and yet rejoice
That thou shouldst sorrow so;
With angel choirs I join my voice
To bless the sinner’s woe.
Though friends and kindred turn away,
And laugh thy grief to scorn;
I hear the great Redeemer say,
“Blessed are ye that mourn.”
Hold on thy course, nor deem it strange
That earthly cords are riven:
Man may lament the wondrous change,
But “there is joy in heaven!”

. . . . . . . . . .

 

Stanzas

Oh, weep not, love! each tear that springs
In those dear eyes of thine,
To me a keener suffering brings
Than if they flowed from mine.
And do not droop! however drear
The fate awaiting thee;
For MY sake combat pain and care,
And cherish life for me!
I do not fear thy love will fail;
Thy faith is true, I know;
But, oh, my love! thy strength is frail
For such a life of woe.
Were ‘t not for this, I well could trace
(Though banished long from thee)
Life’s rugged path, and boldly face
The storms that threaten me.
Fear not for me—I’ve steeled my mind
Sorrow and strife to greet;
Joy with my love I leave behind,
Care with my friends I meet.
A mother’s sad reproachful eye,
A father’s scowling brow—
But he may frown and she may sigh:
I will not break my vow!
I love my mother, I revere
My sire, but fear not me—
Believe that Death alone can tear
This faithful heart from thee.

. . . . . . . . . .

If This Be All

O God! if this indeed be all
That Life can show to me;
If on my aching brow may fall
No freshening dew from Thee;
If with no brighter light than this
The lamp of hope may glow,
And I may only dream of bliss,
And wake to weary woe;
If friendship’s solace must decay,
When other joys are gone,
And love must keep so far away,
While I go wandering on,—
Wandering and toiling without gain,
The slave of others’ will,
With constant care, and frequent pain,
Despised, forgotten still;
Grieving to look on vice and sin,
Yet powerless to quell
The silent current from within,
The outward torrent’s swell
While all the good I would impart,
The feelings I would share,
Are driven backward to my heart,
And turned to wormwood there;
If clouds must EVER keep from sight
The glories of the Sun,
And I must suffer Winter’s blight,
Ere Summer is begun;
If Life must be so full of care,
Then call me soon to thee;
Or give me strength enough to bear
My load of misery.

. . . . . . . . . .

 

Memory

Brightly the sun of summer shone
Green fields and waving woods upon,
And soft winds wandered by;
Above, a sky of purest blue,
Around, bright flowers of loveliest hue,
Allured the gazer’s eye.
But what were all these charms to me,
When one sweet breath of memory
Came gently wafting by?
I closed my eyes against the day,
And called my willing soul away,
From earth, and air, and sky;
That I might simply fancy there
One little flower—a primrose fair,
Just opening into sight;
As in the days of infancy,
An opening primrose seemed to me
A source of strange delight
Sweet Memory! ever smile on me;
Nature’s chief beauties spring from thee;
Oh, still thy tribute bring
Still make the golden crocus shine
Among the flowers the most divine,
The glory of the spring.
Still in the wallflower’s fragrance dwell;
And hover round the slight bluebell,
My childhood’s darling flower.
Smile on the little daisy still,
The buttercup’s bright goblet fill
With all thy former power.
For ever hang thy dreamy spell
Round mountain star and heather bell,
And do not pass away
From sparkling frost, or wreathed snow,
And whisper when the wild winds blow,
Or rippling waters play.
Is childhood, then, so all divine?
Or Memory, is the glory thine,
That haloes thus the past?
Not ALL divine; its pangs of grief
(Although, perchance, their stay be brief)
Are bitter while they last.
Nor is the glory all thine own,
For on our earliest joys alone
That holy light is cast.
With such a ray, no spell of thine
Can make our later pleasures shine,
Though long ago they passed.

. . . . . . . . . .

The Doubter’s Prayer

Eternal Power, of earth and air!
Unseen, yet seen in all around,
Remote, but dwelling everywhere,
Though silent, heard in every sound;
If e’er thine ear in mercy bent,
When wretched mortals cried to Thee,
And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent,
To save lost sinners such as me:
Then hear me now, while kneeling here,
I lift to thee my heart and eye,
And all my soul ascends in prayer,
OH, GIVE ME—GIVE ME FAITH! I cry.
Without some glimmering in my heart,
I could not raise this fervent prayer;
But, oh! a stronger light impart,
And in Thy mercy fix it there.
While Faith is with me, I am blest;
It turns my darkest night to day;
But while I clasp it to my breast,
I often feel it slide away.
Then, cold and dark, my spirit sinks,
To see my light of life depart;
And every fiend of Hell, methinks,
Enjoys the anguish of my heart.
What shall I do, if all my love,
My hopes, my toil, are cast away,
And if there be no God above,
To hear and bless me when I pray?
If this be vain delusion all,
If death be an eternal sleep,
And none can hear my secret call,
Or see the silent tears I weep!
Oh, help me, God! For thou alone
Canst my distracted soul relieve;
Forsake it not:it is thine own,
Though weak, yet longing to believe.
Oh, drive these cruel doubts away;
And make me know, that Thou art God!
A faith, that shines by night and day,
Will lighten every earthly load.
If I believe that Jesus died,
And waking, rose to reign above;
Then surely Sorrow, Sin, and Pride,
Must yield to Peace, and Hope, and Love.
And all the blessed words He said
Will strength and holy joy impart:
A shield of safety o’er my head,
A spring of comfort in my heart.

. . . . . . . . . .

 

The Consolation

Though bleak these woods, and damp the ground
With fallen leaves so thickly strown,
And cold the wind that wanders round
With wild and melancholy moan;
There IS a friendly roof, I know,
Might shield me from the wintry blast;
There is a fire, whose ruddy glow
Will cheer me for my wanderings past.
And so, though still, where’er I go,
Cold stranger-glances meet my eye;
Though, when my spirit sinks in woe,
Unheeded swells the unbidden sigh;
Though solitude, endured too long,
Bids youthful joys too soon decay,
Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue,
And overclouds my noon of day;
When kindly thoughts that would have way,
Flow back discouraged to my breast;
I know there is, though far away,
A home where heart and soul may rest.
Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine,
The warmer heart will not belie;
While mirth, and truth, and friendship shine
In smiling lip and earnest eye.
The ice that gathers round my heart
May there be thawed; and sweetly, then,
The joys of youth, that now depart,
Will come to cheer my soul again.
Though far I roam, that thought shall be
My hope, my comfort, everywhere;
While such a home remains to me,
My heart shall never know despair!

. . . . . . . . . .

Lines composed in Wood on a Windy Day

My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.
The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing,
The bare trees are tossing their branches on high;
The dead leaves beneath them are merrily dancing,
The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky
I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing
The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray;
I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing,
And hear the wild roar of their thunder to-day!

. . . . . . . . . .

 

The Captive Dove

Poor restless dove, I pity thee;
And when I hear thy plaintive moan,
I mourn for thy captivity,
And in thy woes forget mine own.
To see thee stand prepared to fly,
And flap those useless wings of thine,
And gaze into the distant sky,
Would melt a harder heart than mine.
In vain—in vain! Thou canst not rise:
Thy prison roof confines thee there;
Its slender wires delude thine eyes,
And quench thy longings with despair.
Oh, thou wert made to wander free
In sunny mead and shady grove,
And far beyond the rolling sea,
In distant climes, at will to rove!
Yet, hadst thou but one gentle mate
Thy little drooping heart to cheer,
And share with thee thy captive state,
Thou couldst be happy even there.
Yes, even there, if, listening by,
One faithful dear companion stood,
While gazing on her full bright eye,
Thou mightst forget thy native wood
But thou, poor solitary dove,
Must make, unheard, thy joyless moan;
The heart that Nature formed to love
Must pine, neglected, and alone.

 

Lines Written from Home

Though bleak these woods, and damp the ground,
With fallen leaves so thickly strewn,
And cold the wind that wanders round
With wild and melancholy moan;
There is a friendly roof I know,
Might shield me from the wintry blast;
There is a fire whose ruddy glow
Will cheer me for my wanderings past.
And so, though still where’er I go
Cold stranger glances meet my eye;
Though, when my spirit sinks in woe,
Unheeded swells the unbidden sigh;
Though solitude, endured too long,
Bids youthful joys too soon decay,
Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue,
And overclouds my noon of day;
When kindly thoughts that would have way
Flow back, discouraged, to my breast,
I know there is, though far away,
A home where heart and soul may rest.
Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine,
The warmer heart will not belie;
While mirth and truth, and friendship shine
In smiling lip and earnest eye.
The ice that gathers round my heart
May there be thawed; and sweetly, then,
The joys of youth, that now depart,
Will come to cheer my soul again.
Though far I roam, that thought shall be
My hope, my comfort everywhere;
While such a home remains to me,
My heart shall never know despair.

(Charlotte wrote of this poem in the edition published after her sisters’ deaths: “My sister Anne had to taste the cup of life as it is mixed for the class termed “Governesses.”)

 

 

More about Anne Brontë as a poet

In an updated edition published after both Emily and Anne had died, Charlotte wrote:

“In looking over my sister Anne’s papers, I find mournful evidence that religious feeling had been to her but too much like what it was to Cowper; I mean, of course, in a far milder form.

Without rendering her a prey to those horrors that defy concealment, it subdued her mood and bearing to a perpetual pensiveness; the pillar of a cloud glided constantly before her eyes; she ever waited at the foot of a secret Sinai, listening in her heart to the voice of a trumpet sounding long and waxing louder.

Some, perhaps, would rejoice over these tokens of sincere though sorrowing piety in a deceased relative: I own, to me they seem sad, as if her whole innocent life had been passed under the martyrdom of an unconfessed physical pain: their effect, indeed, would be too distressing, were it not combated by the certain knowledge that in her last moments this tyranny of a too tender conscience was overcome; this pomp of terrors broke up, and passing away, left her dying hour unclouded.

Her belief in God did not then bring to her dread, as of a stern Judge,—but hope, as in a Creator and Saviour: and no faltering hope was it, but a sure and stedfast conviction, on which, in the rude passage from Time to Eternity, she threw the weight of her human weakness, and by which she was enabled to bear what was to be borne, patiently—serenely—victoriously.”

 

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