Think of the Brontës and poetry isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. It’s more likely to be Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights or Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (which, incidentally, is the focus of Readers Connect in the current issue of The Reader magazine and one of the novels in our Richard and Judy Poll, which closes at the end of the month). Yet Emily Brontë is widely regarded as one of the most original poets of the nineteenth century, remembered for her lyrics, such as ‘The night is darkening round me’ and for her passionate invocations from the world of Gondal (an imaginary world that she created with Anne), as well as more personal musings and visions, of which ‘Stanzas’ is one. It is vivid in its evocation of the atmospheric landscape of the moors, which are the centre of her thoughts and the place of her inspiration.
There is, however, some doubt as to whether Emily did indeed write this poem; that it should probably be ascribed to Charlotte. Yet Emily’s poetic work, like Wuthering Heights, so often evokes the moorland scenery that surrounds her – something she was more intensely attached to, and concerned with, than her sisters – this poem is no exception. Surely it was Emily? We’ll never know.
Often rebuked, yet always back returning
To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
For idle dreams of things which cannot be:Today, I will seek not the shadowy region;
Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
I’ll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.
I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.
What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.
Posted by Jen Tomkins