No Coward Soul is Mine: 10 Profound 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-ish noms de plume (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were Currer, Ellis, and Acton, respectively, and shared the surname Bell) when Charlotte undertook the mission of finding a publisher for a collected book of their poems.

Finally, the book, titled Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell’s Poems was published — or one might more accurately say printed, for they had to pay to get it produced. It appeared in 1846 to absolutely no fanfare and the humiliating sale of just two copies. Still, the sisters were undaunted and not long after, and with much effort, found homes for their first novels.

Though Charlotte and Anne were competent poets, it was evident was evident from the start that Emily was the most talented poet among them.. 

 

Emily Brontë’s poetry has been reappraised in recent times, especially in academic quarters. On appraisal that has stood the test of time is by Mary Robinson, from the 1883 biography, Emily Brontë. She begins:

“No one in the house ever saw what things Emily wrote in the moments of pause from her pastry-making, in those brief sittings under the currants, in those long and lonely watches for her drunken brother. She did not write to be read, but only to relieve a burdened heart.”

Interspersed with Robinson’s analyses of specific poems, she offers insights on Emily’s larger body of poetic work: 

“The finest songs, the most peculiarly her own, are all of defiance and mourning, moods so natural to her that she seems to scarcely need the intervention of words in their confession.”

Read more in Emily Brontë’s Poetry: A 19th-Century Analysis.

 

Poems that follow include:

  • No Coward Soul is Mine
  • Riches I Hold in Light Esteem
  • A Day Dream
  • Death, That Struck When I Was Most Confiding
  • How Beautiful the Earth is Still
  • I Am the Only Being Whose Doom
  • Long Neglect Has Worn Away
  • Plead for Me
  • Remembrance
  • The Night is Darkening Round Me

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Emily Bronte stamp

See also: The Night of  Storms Has Passed by Emily Brontë

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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.

Analysis of “No coward soul is mine”

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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.

. . . . . . . . . .

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.

. . . . . . . . . .

The complete poems of Emily Bronte

“The Prisoner” by Emily Brontë
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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!

 

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I Am the Only Being Whose Doom

I am the only being whose doom
No tongue would ask, no eye would mourn;
I never caused a thought of gloom,
A smile of joy, since I was born.
In secret pleasure, secret tears,
This changeful life has slipped away,
As friendless after eighteen years,
As lone as on my natal day.
There have been times I cannot hide,
There have been times when this was drear,
When my sad soul forgot its pride
And longed for one to love me here.
But those were in the early glow
Of feelings since subdued by care;
And they have died so long ago,
I hardly now believe they were.
First melted off the hope of youth,
Then fancy’s rainbow fast withdrew;
And then experience told me truth
In mortal bosoms never grew.
‘Twas grief enough to think mankind
All hollow, servile, insincere;
But worse to trust to my own mind
And find the same corruption there.

Analysis of “I Am the Only Being Whose Doom”

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Long Neglect Has Worn Away

Long neglect has worn away
Half the sweet enchanting smile;
Time has turned the bloom to gray;
Mold and damp the face defile.
But that lock of silky hair,
Still beneath the picture twined,
Tells what once those features were,
Paints their image on the mind.
Fair the hand that traced that line,
“Dearest, ever deem me true”;
Swiftly flew the fingers fine
When the pen that motto drew.

 

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Plead for Me

O thy bright eyes must answer now,
When Reason, with a scornful brow,
Is mocking at my overthrow;
O thy sweet tongue must plead for me
And tell why I have chosen thee!
Stern Reason is to judgment come
Arrayed in all her forms of gloom:
Wilt thou my advocate be dumb?
No, radiant angel, speak and say
Why I did cast the world away;
Why I have persevered to shun
The common paths that others run;
And on a strange road journeyed on
Heedless alike of Wealth and Power—
Of Glory’s wreath and Pleasure’s flower.
These once indeed seemed Beings divine,
And they perchance heard vows of mine
And saw my offerings on their shrine—
But, careless gifts are seldom prized,
And mine were worthily despised;
So with a ready heart I swore
To seek their altar-stone no more,
And gave my spirit to adore
Thee, ever present, phantom thing—
My slave, my comrade, and my King!
A slave because I rule thee still;
Incline thee to my changeful will
And make thy influence good or ill—
A comrade, for by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight—
My Darling Pain that wounds and sears
And wrings a blessing out from tears
By deadening me to real cares;
And yet, a king—though prudence well
Have taught thy subject to rebel.
And am I wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt nor Hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of Visions, plead for me
And tell why I have chosen thee!

 

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Remembrance

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?
Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!
Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!
No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.
But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.
Then did I check the tears of useless passion—
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.
And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

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The Night is Darkening Round Me

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me,
And I cannot, cannot go.
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow;
The storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.
Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

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One Response to “No Coward Soul is Mine: 10 Profound Poems by Emily Brontë”

  1. Just loved reading the poems of Emily Bronte. So much wisdom for one so young. Could read them again and again. Tragic that she had to go so early.

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