Emily Bronte – the writer whom of all writers I would most like to meet and talk to, get to know, even perhaps become her friend:
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler on 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 has 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 thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The stedfast 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 man 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:
Thou—THOU art Being and Breath,
And what THOU art may never be destroyed.
“Vain are the thousand creeds” she says – creeds – what we believe (from credo, I believe) – so what does she mean by “faith” as she uses that word in the first stanza?
This (from Ram Dass) made me think:
A more philosophical discussion of the concept of “faith” coming up in the next post.
But I said TWO Emily Bronte poems, so here’s a second one. As you read it, savour the structure and rhythm; it is exactly the same as that of F W H Myers’ long poem St Paul, which I shall also come to in a future post.
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
That noble heart for ever, 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:
Sterner 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?
“The language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age. This remains the language of true poetry.” (Robert Graves, The White Goddess)
Thought-provoking. It implies that there is an alternative universe in which he, I, we, would have written them. But that would necessitate a whole series of alternative universes, in fact a to-all-intents-and-purposes infinite number of alternative universes, all existing in the mind of God …
After that, we need to relax with an Auden poem: next post!