Poem introduction

What struck me about this passionate lament when I first read it in my youth was the rhythm, and the way it carries you inexorably along, but of course the despair and the intense emotion also appealed to me. Emily Bronte originally attributed this poem to one of the characters in her Gondal stories, but she removed all such references before allowing her poems to be published. However, just because she was writing about imaginary characters it doesn’t mean that the feelings she expressed were any less heartfelt. After all, she had experienced more than enough grief and bereavement, having lost her mother and two older sisters by the time she was seven. It seems quite possible that at some deep level the person being so passionately mourned here is her older sister Maria, who died at the age of twelve.


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
Thy noble heart forever, 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;
Other 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?

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Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte Downloads read by Fleur Adcock



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