Happy Birthday Charlotte!

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, here is one of her poems. Charlotte is one of my favourite writers & Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books, I’ve read it at least a dozen times & I always find something new in it.. I’ve written about her other novels – Shirley, Villette & The Professor – & every time I read a new biography or see a new adaptation of Jane Eyre (why has no one ever adapted Villette?) I go back to the books again.

This poem, which is probably from the Angrian stories Charlotte wrote from childhood, is full of the  Romanticism & barely suppressed passion of her best work. I also love the evocation of the natural world, the “soft and golden light“, “the last bird’s belated flight” & the melancholy of the speaker’s sound sleep “Beneath the churchyard tree“.

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.

10 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Charlotte!

  1. Thank you for this. I have long been a fan of the Brontes. I had overlooked the fact it was Charlotte's birthday today. I am stupidly excited about going to a talk at Hay Festival (about 60 miles from here) on Bronte Memorabilia! Magic.

    BTW, came here via Sue at Our Quiet Life in Suffolk's blog.


  2. I've read all of her books but not her poetry. I must have some of it in a book of Victorian poetry. Visiting Haworth Parsonage is a great experience, it's as if they have all just stepped out of the rooms.


  3. I visited North Lees Hall today. It is supposed to be the inspiration for Thornfield Hall. I'll be blogging about that.
    A bit of a tangent, but I have just reread Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It is terrific.


  4. The Tenant is wonderful. I think Anne is gradually being recognized as an accomplished author in her own right, not just an adjunct to Charlotte & Emily. I'll look forward to reading about North Lees Hall. Is that the house with the Apostle cupboard?


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