Emily Brontë: Through Life and Death, A Chainless Soul
I’M HAPPIEST WHEN MOST AWAY (1838 - age 19)
I’m happiest when most away
I can bear my soul from its home of clay
On a windy night when the moon is bright
And the eye can wander through worlds of light—
When I am not and none beside—
Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky—
But only spirit wandering wide
Through infinite immensity.
Excerpt from PLEAD FOR ME
(1844 - age 26)
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.
(1844 - age 26)
When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again—
O my true friend, I am not lone
While thou canst speak with such a tone!
So hopeless is the world without,
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world where guile and hate and doubt
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou and I and Liberty
Have undisputed sovereignty.
What matters it that all around
Danger and grief and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright unsullied sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?
Reason indeed may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy newly blown.
But thou art ever there to bring
The hovering visions back and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring
And call a lovelier life from death,
And whisper with a voice divine
Of real worlds as bright as thine.
I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet still in evening’s quiet hour
With never-failing thankfulness
I welcome thee, benignant power,
Sure solacer of human cares
And brighter hope when hope despairs.
Excerpt from MY COMFORTER
(1844 - age 25)
Deep down—concealed within my soul,
That light lies hid from men,
Yet glows unquenched—though shadows roll,
Its gentle ray can not control—
About the sullen den.
(1845 - age 26)
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 fulfillment, 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 mature 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
THE OLD STOIC
(1841 - age 22)
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!
NO COWARD SOUL IS MINE
(1846 - age 27)
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.
Five Waka poems by Saigyo
sora ni naru
kokoro wa haru no
yo ni araji tomo
koko o mata
matsu wa hitori ni
naran to suran
fukaki yama ni
sumikeru tsuki o
omoide mo naki
waga mi naramashi
hana ni somu
kokoro no ikade
omou waga mi ni
kozo no shiori no
mada minukata no
hana o tazunen
Translation by Akemi Naito with assistance by Helen Nagata
Awakening in mind,
My heart like a spring
The thought of stepping out of the world
When I grow restless and
Must drift away, then
You’ll be left all alone.
Deep within the mountains
Shine brightly the moon.
Never to have seen it
Would be like having no remembrance
Colored by cherry blossoms,
How is it my heart
Is still moved?
Free from the world
I thought I had become…
Turning from previous paths of marked branches,
I take a new direction
Toward yet unseen blossoms
To pay a visit.
CONNECT with Akemi Naito
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