No Coward Soul is Mine: 5 Poems by Emily Brontë

Emily Bronte

Before attempting to publish novels, Charlotte Brontë undertook the task of finding a home for a collaborative book of poems by herself and her sisters, Anne and Emily Brontë.

Charlotte and Anne are considered fine poets, but Emily Brontë’s poems are considered the most moving and beautiful among the poetic work of the three sisters. The trio took masculine noms de plume (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were Currer, Ellis, and Acton, respectively, and shared the surname Bell).

The book, titled Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell’s Poems was published (or one might more accurately say printed) in 1846 to absolutely no fanfare and humiliating sales of two copies. Still, the sisters were undaunted and soon after, though with much effort, found homes for their first novels.

What is evident is that of the three sisters, Emily was the most talented poet. Here are five of Emily Brontë’s soulful and beautiful poems.

 

Riches I hold in light esteem

March 1, 1841

Riches I hold in light esteem
And Love I laugh to scorn
And lust of Fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn–

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is – “Leave the heart that now I bear
And give me liberty.”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal
‘Tis all that I implore
Through life and death, a chainless soul
With courage to endure!

 

A Day Dream

March 5, 1844

On a sunny brae alone I lay
One summer afternoon;
It was the marriage-time of May
With her young lover, June.

From her Mother’s heart seemed loath to part
That queen of bridal charms,
But her Father smiled on the fairest child
He ever held in his arms.

The trees did wave their plumy crests,
The glad birds carolled clear;
And I, of all the wedding guests,
Was only sullen there.

There was not one but wished to shun
My aspect void of cheer;
The very grey rocks, looking on,
Asked, “What do you do here?”

And I could utter no reply:
In sooth I did not know
Why I had brought a clouded eye
To greet the general glow.

So, resting on a heathy bank,
I took my heart to me;
And we together sadly sank
Into a reverie.

We thought, “When winter comes again
Where will these bright things be?
All vanished, like a vision vain,
An unreal mockery!

“The birds that now so blithely sing,
Through deserts frozen dry,
Poor spectres of the perished Spring
In famished troops will fly.

“And why should we be glad at all?
The leaf is hardly green,
Before a token of the fall
Is on its surface seen.”

Now whether it were really so
I never could be sure-,
But as, in fit of peevish woe,
I stretched me on the moor,

A thousand thousand glancing fires
Seemed kindling in the air;
A thousand thousand silvery lyres
Resounded far and near:

Methought the very breath I breathed
Was full of sparks divine,
And all my heather-couch was wreathed
By that celestial shine.

And while the wide Earth echoing rang
To their strange minstrelsy,
The little glittering spirits sang,
Or seemed to sing, to me:

“O mortal, mortal, let them die;
Let Time and Tears destroy,
That we may overflow the sky
With universal joy.

“Let Grief distract the sufferer’s breast,
And Night obscure his way;
They hasten him to endless rest,
And everlasting day.

“To Thee the world is like a tomb,
A desert’s naked shore;
To us, in unimagined bloom,
It brightens more and more.

“And could we lift the veil and give
One brief glimpse to thine eye
Thou would’st rejoice for those that live,
Because they live to die.”

The music ceased-the noonday Dream
Like dream of night withdrew
But Fancy still will sometimes deem
Her fond creation true.

. . . . . . . . . .

emily bronte

See also: The Night of  Storms Has Passed by Emily Brontë
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Death, that struck when I was most confiding

April 10, 1845

Death, that struck when I was most confiding
In my certain Faith of joy to be,
Strike again, Time’s withered branch dividing
From the fresh root of Eternity!

Leaves, upon Time’s branch, were growing brightly,
Full of sap and full of silver dew;
Birds, beneath its shelter, gathered nightly;
Daily, round its flowers, the wild bees flew.

Sorrow passed and plucked the golden blossom,
Guilt stripped off the foliage in its pride;
But, within its parent’s kindly bosom,
Flowed forever Life’s restoring tide.

Little mourned I for the parted Gladness,
For the vacant nest and silent song;
Hope was there and laughed me out of sadness,
Whispering, “Winter will not linger long.”

And behold, with tenfold increase blessing
Spring adorned the beauty-burdened spray;
Wind and rain and fervent heat caressing
Lavished glory on its second May.
High it rose; no winge’d grief could sweep it;
Sin was scared to distance with its shine:
Love and its own life had power to keep it
From all ‘Wrong, from every blight but thine!

Heartless ‘ Death, the young leaves droop and languish!
Evening’s gentle air may still restore–
No: the morning sunshine mocks my anguish
Time for me must never blossom more!

Strike it down, that other boughs may flourish
Where that perished sapling used to be;
Thus, at least, its mouldering corpse will nourish
That from which it sprung-Eternity.

. . . . . . . . . .

You might also like: Quotes from Wuthering Heights
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How beautiful the Earth is still

June 2, 1845

How beautiful the Earth is still
To thee–how full of Happiness;
How little fraught with real ill
Or shadowy phantoms of distress;

How Spring can bring thee glory yet
And Summer win thee to forget
December’s sullen time!
Why dost thou hold the treasure fast
Of youth’s delight, when youth is past
And thou art near thy prime?

When those who were thy own compeers,
Equal in fortunes and in years,
Have seen their morning melt in tears,
To dull unlovely day;
Blest, had they died unproved and young
Before their hearts were wildly wrung,
Poor slaves, subdued by passions strong,
A weak and helpless prey!

“Because, I hoped while they enjoyed,
And by fulfilment, hope destroyed
As children hope, with trustful breast,
I waited Bliss and cherished Rest.

“A thoughtful Spirit taught me soon
That we must long till life be done;
That every phase of earthly joy
Will always fade and always cloy–

“This I foresaw, and would not chase
The fleeting treacheries,
But with firm foot and tranquil face
Held backward from the tempting race,
Gazed o’er the sands the waves efface
To the enduring seas–

“There cast my anchor of Desire
Deep in unknown Eternity;
Nor ever let my Spirit tire
With looking for What is to be.

“It is Hope’s spell that glorifies
Like youth to my maturer eyes
All Nature’s million mysteries–
The fearful and the fair–

“Hope soothes me in the griefs I know,
She lulls my pain for others’ woe
And makes me strong to undergo
What I am born to bear.
“Glad comforter, will I not brave
Unawed the darkness of the grave?
Nay, smile to hear Death’s billows rave,
My Guide, sustained by thee?

The more unjust seems present fate
The more my Spirit springs elate
Strong in thy strength, to anticipate
Rewarding Destiny!

. . . . . . . . . .

Emily Bronte stamp

Emily Brontë’s Poetry: A 19th-Century Analysis
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No coward soul is mine

January 2, 1846
Charlotte Brontë wrote of this poem that these were “the last lines my sister Emily ever wrote.”

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.

 

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