A Selection of 10 Poems by Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Bronte Portrait

The Brontë sisters — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne — literary geniuses all, are best known for their classic novels, but each was a poet in her own right. Though Emily’s has come to be known as the best among their poetic works, poems by Charlotte Brontë are more than meriting of a consideration.

Charlotte is best known for Jane Eyre (1847) and also wrote Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853). Before attempting to publish novels, Charlotte undertook the task of finding a home for a collaborative book of poems, thinking it would be a good stepping stone (it wasn’t, as it turned out). The sisters took masculine, or at least indeterminate, noms de plume. 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, was published and advertised at the sisters’ own expense and sold two copies) and all of it that merits to be known are the poems of Ellis Bell.”

The resulting book, The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, published in 1846 at the sisters’ own expense, sold exactly two copies. Charlotte didn’t think much of her own poetry, nor apparently that of Anne’s, recognizing even then that Emily (who went by Ellis) had the true poetic talent of the trio. Find out more about the Brontë sisters’ path to publication.

Of Charlotte’s poetic work, The Poetry Foundation observes:

“Like her contemporary Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Brontë experimented with the poetic forms that became the characteristic modes of the Victorian period—the long narrative poem and the dramatic monologue—but unlike Browning, Brontë gave up writing poetry after the success ofJane Eyre.

… Brontë’s decision to abandon poetry for novel writing exemplifies the dramatic shift in literary tastes and the marketability of literary genres—from poetry to prose fiction—that occurred in the 1830s and 1840s.”

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Charlotte Bronte portrait by George Richmond, 1850
 
Learn more about Charlotte Brontë
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A selection of poems by Charlotte Brontë

The first seven poems in this selection are from The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The poems reprinted here are the shortest of her works in this book; the others are nearly epic in length. You can read a later edition of the book, with an addendum by Charlotte, on Project Gutenberg. 

“Speak of the North ! A Lonely Moor” is the 8th poem in the following selection; it’s not known exactly when Charlotte wrote it. And the last two are sad tributes to her sisters Emily and Anne, who died within months of one another at ages thirty and twenty-nine, respectively.

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The Complete Poems of Emily Bronte

You may also enjoy: 5 Poems by Emily Brontë
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Life

Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

Analysis of Life

 

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The Letter

What is she writing? Watch her now,
How fast her fingers move!
How eagerly her youthful brow
Is bent in thought above!
Her long curls, drooping, shade the light,
She puts them quick aside,
Nor knows that band of crystals bright,
Her hasty touch untied.
It slips down her silken dress,
Falls glittering at her feet;
Unmarked it falls, for she no less
Pursues her labour sweet.
The very loveliest hour that shines,
Is in that deep blue sky;
The golden sun of June declines,
It has not caught her eye.
The cheerful lawn, and unclosed gate,
The white road, far away,
In vain for her light footsteps wait,
She comes not forth to-day.
There is an open door of glass
Close by that lady’s chair,
From thence, to slopes of messy grass,
Descends a marble stair.
Tall plants of bright and spicy bloom
Around the threshold grow;
Their leaves and blossoms shade the room
From that sun’s deepening glow.
Why does she not a moment glance
Between the clustering flowers,
And mark in heaven the radiant dance
Of evening’s rosy hours?
O look again! Still fixed her eye,
Unsmiling, earnest, still,
And fast her pen and fingers fly,
Urged by her eager will.
Her soul is in th’absorbing task;
To whom, then, doth she write?
Nay, watch her still more closely, ask
Her own eyes’ serious light;
Where do they turn, as now her pen
Hangs o’er th’unfinished line?
Whence fell the tearful gleam that then
Did in their dark spheres shine?
The summer-parlour looks so dark,
When from that sky you turn,
And from th’expanse of that green park,
You scarce may aught discern.
Yet, o’er the piles of porcelain rare,
O’er flower-stand, couch, and vase,
Sloped, as if leaning on the air,
One picture meets the gaze.
‘Tis there she turns; you may not see
Distinct, what form defines
The clouded mass of mystery
Yon broad gold frame confines.
But look again; inured to shade
Your eyes now faintly trace
A stalwart form, a massive head,
A firm, determined face.
Black Spanish locks, a sunburnt cheek
A brow high, broad, and white,
Where every furrow seems to speak
Of mind and moral might.
Is that her god? I cannot tell;
Her eye a moment met
Th’impending picture, then it fell
Darkened and dimmed and wet.
A moment more, her task is done,
And sealed the letter lies;
And now, towards the setting sun
She turns her tearful eyes.
Those tears flow over, wonder not,
For by the inscription see
In what a strange and distant spot
Her heart of hearts must be!
Three seas and many a league of land
That letter must pass o’er,
Ere read by him to whose loved hand
‘Tis sent from England’s shore.
Remote colonial wilds detain
Her husband, loved though stern;
She, ‘mid that smiling English scene,
Weeps for his wished return.

 

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Passion

Some have won a wild delight,
By daring wilder sorrow;
Could I gain thy love to-night,
I’d hazard death to-morrow.
Could the battle-struggle earn
One kind glance from thine eye,
How this withering heart would burn,
The heady fight to try!
Welcome nights of broken sleep,
And days of carnage cold,
Could I deem that thou wouldst weep
To hear my perils told.
Tell me, if with wandering bands
I roam full far away,
Wilt thou to those distant lands
In spirit ever stray?
Wild, long, a trumpet sounds afar;
Bid me—bid me go
Where Seik and Briton meet in war,
On Indian Sutlej’s flow.
Blood has dyed the Sutlej’s waves
With scarlet stain, I know;
Indus’ borders yawn with graves,
Yet, command me go!
Though rank and high the holocaust
Of nations steams to heaven,
Glad I’d join the death-doomed host,
Were but the mandate given.
Passion’s strength should nerve my arm,
Its ardour stir my life,
Till human force to that dread charm
Should yield and sink in wild alarm,
Like trees to tempest-strife.
If, hot from war, I seek thy love,
Darest thou turn aside?
Darest thou then my fire reprove,
By scorn, and maddening pride?
No—my will shall yet control
Thy will, so high and free,
And love shall tame that haughty soul—
Yes—tenderest love for me.
I’ll read my triumph in thine eyes,
Behold, and prove the change;
Then leave, perchance, my noble prize,
Once more in arms to range.
I’d die when all the foam is up,
The bright wine sparkling high;
Nor wait till in the exhausted cup
Life’s dull dregs only lie.
Then Love thus crowned with sweet reward,
Hope blest with fulness large,
I’d mount the saddle, draw the sword,
And perish in the charge!

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Evening Solace

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;—
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame’s or Wealth’s illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.
But there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart’s best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.
And feelings, once as strong as passions,
Float softly back—a faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others’ sufferings seem.
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!
And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress—
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.

 

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Parting

There’s no use in weeping,
Though we are condemned to part:
There’s such a thing as keeping
A remembrance in one’s heart:
There’s such a thing as dwelling
On the thought ourselves have nursed,
And with scorn and courage telling
The world to do its worst.
We’ll not let its follies grieve us,
We’ll just take them as they come;
And then every day will leave us
A merry laugh for home.
When we’ve left each friend and brother,
When we’re parted wide and far,
We will think of one another,
As even better than we are.
Every glorious sight above us,
Every pleasant sight beneath,
We’ll connect with those that love us,
Whom we truly love till death!
In the evening, when we’re sitting
By the fire, perchance alone,
Then shall heart with warm heart meeting,
Give responsive tone for tone.
We can burst the bonds which chain us,
Which cold human hands have wrought,
And where none shall dare restrain us
We can meet again, in thought.
So there’s no use in weeping,
Bear a cheerful spirit still;
Never doubt that Fate is keeping
Future good for present ill!

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Regret

Long ago I wished to leave
” The house where I was born; ”
Long ago I used to grieve,
My home seemed so forlorn.
In other years, its silent rooms
Were filled with haunting fears;
Now, their very memory comes
O’ercharged with tender tears.
Life and marriage I have known,
Things once deemed so bright;
Now, how utterly is flown
Every ray of light !
‘Mid the unknown sea of life
I no blest isle have found;
At last, through all its wild wave’s strife,
My bark is homeward bound.
Farewell, dark and rolling deep!
Farewell, foreign shore!
Open, in unclouded sweep,
Thou glorious realm before!
Yet, though I had safely pass’d
That weary, vexed main,
One loved voice, through surge and blast,
Could call me back again.
Though the soul’s bright morning rose
O’er Paradise for me,
William ! even from Heaven’s repose
I’d turn, invoked by thee!
Storm nor surge should e’er arrest
My soul, exulting then:
All my heaven was once thy breast,
Would it were mine again!
Stanzas
If thou be in a lonely place,
If one hour’s calm be thine,
As Evening bends her placid face
O’er this sweet day’s decline;
If all the earth and all the heaven
Now look serene to thee,
As o’er them shuts the summer even,
One moment—think of me!
Pause, in the lane, returning home;
‘Tis dusk, it will be still:
Pause near the elm, a sacred gloom
Its breezeless boughs will fill.
Look at that soft and golden light,
High in the unclouded sky;
Watch the last bird’s belated flight,
As it flits silent by.
Hark! for a sound upon the wind,
A step, a voice, a sigh;
If all be still, then yield thy mind,
Unchecked, to memory.
If thy love were like mine, how blest
That twilight hour would seem,
When, back from the regretted Past,
Returned our early dream!
If thy love were like mine, how wild
Thy longings, even to pain,
For sunset soft, and moonlight mild,
To bring that hour again!
But oft, when in thine arms I lay,
I’ve seen thy dark eyes shine,
And deeply felt their changeful ray
Spoke other love than mine.
My love is almost anguish now,
It beats so strong and true;
‘Twere rapture, could I deem that thou
Such anguish ever knew.
I have been but thy transient flower,
Thou wert my god divine;
Till checked by death’s congealing power,
This heart must throb for thine.
And well my dying hour were blest,
If life’s expiring breath
Should pass, as thy lips gently prest
My forehead cold in death;
And sound my sleep would be, and sweet,
Beneath the churchyard tree,
If sometimes in thy heart should beat
One pulse, still true to me.

 

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Winter Stores

We take from life one little share,
And say that this shall be
A space, redeemed from toil and care,
From tears and sadness free.
And, haply, Death unstrings his bow,
And Sorrow stands apart,
And, for a little while, we know
The sunshine of the heart.
Existence seems a summer eve,
Warm, soft, and full of peace,
Our free, unfettered feelings give
The soul its full release.
A moment, then, it takes the power
To call up thoughts that throw
Around that charmed and hallowed hour,
This life’s divinest glow.
But Time, though viewlessly it flies,
And slowly, will not stay;
Alike, through clear and clouded skies,
It cleaves its silent way.
Alike the bitter cup of grief,
Alike the draught of bliss,
Its progress leaves but moment brief
For baffled lips to kiss
The sparkling draught is dried away,
The hour of rest is gone,
And urgent voices, round us, say,
“Ho, lingerer, hasten on!”
And has the soul, then, only gained,
From this brief time of ease,
A moment’s rest, when overstrained,
One hurried glimpse of peace?
No; while the sun shone kindly o’er us,
And flowers bloomed round our feet,—
While many a bud of joy before us
Unclosed its petals sweet,—
An unseen work within was plying;
Like honey-seeking bee,
From flower to flower, unwearied, flying,
Laboured one faculty,—
Thoughtful for Winter’s future sorrow,
Its gloom and scarcity;
Prescient to-day, of want to-morrow,
Toiled quiet Memory.
‘Tis she that from each transient pleasure
Extracts a lasting good;
‘Tis she that finds, in summer, treasure
To serve for winter’s food.
And when Youth’s summer day is vanished,
And Age brings Winter’s stress,
Her stores, with hoarded sweets replenished,
Life’s evening hours will bless.

 

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Speak of the North! A lonely moor

Speak of the North! A lonely moor
Silent and dark and tractless swells,
The waves of some wild streamlet pour
Hurriedly through its ferny dells.

Profoundly still the twilight air,
Lifeless the landscape; so we deem
Till like a phantom gliding near
A stag bends down to drink the stream.

And far away a mountain zone,
A cold, white waste of snow-drifts lies,
And one star, large and soft and lone,
Silently lights the unclouded skies.

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On the Death of Emily Jane Brontë

My darling thou wilt never know
The grinding agony of woe
That we have bourne for thee,
Thus may we consolation tear
E’en from the depth of our despair
And wasting misery.
The nightly anguish thou art spared
When all the crushing truth is bared
To the awakening mind,
When the galled heart is pierced with grief,
Till wildly it implores relief,
But small relief can find.
Nor know’st thou what it is to lie
Looking forth with streaming eye
On life’s lone wilderness.
“Weary, weary, dark and drear,
How shall I the journey bear,
The burden and distress?”
Then since thou art spared such pain
We will not wish thee here again;
He that lives must mourn.
God help us through our misery
And give us rest and joy with thee
When we reach our bourne!

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On the Death of Anne Bront

There’s little joy in life for me,
And little terror in the grave;
I ‘ve lived the parting hour to see
Of one I would have died to save.
Calmly to watch the failing breath,
Wishing each sigh might be the last;
Longing to see the shade of death
O’er those belovèd features cast.
The cloud, the stillness that must part
The darling of my life from me;
And then to thank God from my heart,
To thank Him well and fervently;
Although I knew that we had lost
The hope and glory of our life;
And now, benighted, tempest-tossed,
Must bear alone the weary strife.

Analysis of “On the Death of Anne Brontë”

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