Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Poetry - Charlotte Brontë

I'm reading Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Brontë - the first edition with all the libelous bits, of course. I've had this copy for about 30 years & I also have a copy of the third edition with the changes Gaskell was forced to make. In Charlotte's Bicentenary year, it felt like the right time to reread the first &, in some ways, the best biography because Gaskell knew Charlotte. I've also recently read Hermione Lee's Biography : a Very Short Introduction which has made me aware all over again of the motives of biographers. Often it's more about the biographer than the subject. That's why I can read several biographies of the same person as all of them emphasize different aspects of the life. Then there are memoirs & autobiographies. John le Carré's memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, has just been published in the UK & his biographer, Adam Sisman, has just written a very gracious article in the Guardian about the experience of being le Carré's biographer & the difference between memoir & biography. I enjoyed Sisman's biography & I'm looking forward to reading The Pigeon Tunnel.

As this is supposed to be Sunday Poetry, not Sunday Biographical Ramblings, here's one of Charlotte's poems.

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.


  1. a touching poem; it brings a different focus to bear on Charlotte and her writing...

    1. Yes, she wasn't a "great" poet like Emily but she had that facility for poetry that so many 19th century writers had.