Today marks World Poetry Day, so what better occasion to take a look at a poem by Anne Brontë?
We all know, surely, that Anne’s two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, are wonderful and rewarding reads, but she was a very accomplished poet too. In Agnes Grey she writes of how she often takes refuge in poetry when the struggles of life are oppressing her, and in her final months it brought her another brief glimpse of happiness.
Ellen Nussey visited the Parsonage in December 1848 to provide support to Charlotte and Anne after Emily’s death. She writes:
“I observed a slow smile spreading across Anne’s face as she sat reading before the fire. I asked her why she was smiling, and she replied: ‘Only because I see they have inserted one of my poems.'”
Even at this terrible nadir in Anne’s life, and when she herself is desperately ill, she finds solace in the power of poetry. The poem, by the way, was called ‘The Narrow Way’ and it was published by both the Leeds Intelligencer and the prestigious Fraser’s Magazine, meaning that Anne was the only Brontë sister whose poetry was published without it having to be paid for (as it was in the earlier Poems Of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell).
Anne’s poetry is much more natural, musical, and shorter, than Charlotte’s and the poems tend to follow themes: they are adventure poems based in the land of Gondal, poems of mourning lamenting the loss of William Weightman, poems of faith (including despondent poems about failing faith), or happy poems extolling the beauty of nature and home.
It’s a happy day, so let’s finish with a poem from this latter category. ‘The Consolation’ was written in November 1843, when Anne was a governess at Thorp Green Hall and dreaming of Haworth. Charlotte seemed to miss this point somewhat when, in 1850, she edited the poem and re-christened it ‘Lines Written From Home’. Here is Anne’s original poem, Happy World Poetry Day 2017!
“Though bleak these woods, and damp the ground
With fallen leaves so thickly strown,
And cold the wind that wanders round
With wild and melancholy moan;
There IS a friendly roof, I know,
Might shield me from the wintry blast;
There is a fire, whose ruddy glow
Will cheer me for my wanderings past.
And so, though still, where’er I go,
Cold stranger-glances meet my eye;
Though, when my spirit sinks in woe,
Unheeded swells the unbidden sigh;
Though solitude, endured too long,
Bids youthful joys too soon decay,
Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue,
And overclouds my noon of day;
When kindly thoughts that would have way,
Flow back discouraged to my breast;
I know there is, though far away,
A home where heart and soul may rest.
Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine,
The warmer heart will not belie;
While mirth, and truth, and friendship shine
In smiling lip and earnest eye.
The ice that gathers round my heart
May there be thawed; and sweetly, then,
The joys of youth, that now depart,
Will come to cheer my soul again.
Though far I roam, that thought shall be
My hope, my comfort, everywhere;
While such a home remains to me,
My heart shall never know despair!”