POETRY IN LOCKDOWN: 24


Written between her late teens and her late twenties Emily Bronte’s poems offer plenty of material for psychological analysis. Many are connected to the Gondal project that Emily elaborated with her sister Anne: a romantic history of imaginary islands, which has only survived in fragments. Many of these are poems written to intersperse the original (and lost) prose narrative, and Emily’s contributions  owe a lot to her reading in romantic literature. Death and dungeons feature prominently and seem to point to her feelings about the restrictions and relative sterility of her physical life, compared to the vital world of imagination. The richness of Emily’s imagination imbues her strange novel Wuthering Heights, but also gives a powerful visual and verbal intensity to her poetry.

I offer two fragments of vividly imagined scenes, each connected somehow with the Gondal stories, but with a standalone strength of its own.


O hinder me of no delay
My horse is weary of the way
And still his breast must stem the tide
Whose waves are foaming far and wide
Leagues off I heard their thundering roar
As fast they burst upon the shore
A stronger steed than mine might dread
To brave them in their boiling bed

Thus spoke the traveller but in vain
The stranger would not turn away
Still clung she to his bridle rein
And still entreated him to stay

The first four lines of the next short piece are brilliant. The last four, with the lines’ end-words both repeated, are open for interpretation.

Still beside that dreary water
Stood he ’neath the cold moon ray
Thinking on the deed of slaughter
On his heart that darkly lay

Soft the voice that broke his dreaming
Stealing through the silent air
Yet before the raven’s screaming
He had heard regardless there

Once his name was sweetly uttered
Then the echo died away
But each pulse in horror uttered
As the life would pass away

 

Posted on May 22nd, 2020

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