Easter Sunday is here, and it must have been both a joyous and tiring day for the Brontës of Haworth. As perpetual curate of Haworth, Patrick Brontë would have carried out a number of paschal services, and his daughters would also doubtless have been called upon at this time to assist in his duties, or at least to sit in their positions of prominence within St. Michael’s and All Angels church. For Anne Brontë this would have been far from a chore, as she was perhaps the most pious of the Brontë siblings, and the celebration of her faith was always something she welcomed.
There are many other things associated with Easter today, alongside its original religious significance. We may think of the advent of spring, of flowers, or of chocolates. In today’s Easter post we can all enjoy poems by Anne, Emily and Charlotte that have a suitably floral theme – interspersed by some Victorian Easter cards. As you may expect from Victorian cards, their choice of subject is really rather odd – it seems that in the nineteenth century, military themes were thought a more than suitable choice to mark Easter day:
Anne Brontë – The Bluebell
A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.
Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
‘Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;
That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.
Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.
Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.
But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.
Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?
O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood’s hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,
Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.
I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others’ weal
With anxious toil and strife.
‘Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!’
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.
Emily Brontë – The Blue Bell
The blue bell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air;
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.
There is a spell in purple heath
Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath
But fragrance will not cheer.
The trees are bare, the sun is cold;
And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold
The earth its robe of green;
And ice upon the glancing stream
Has cast its sombre shade
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed –
The blue bell cannot charm me now
The heath has lost its bloom,
The violets in the glen below
They yield no sweet perfume.
But though I mourn the heather-bell
‘Tis better far, away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile today;
And that wood flower that hides so shy
Beneath the mossy stone
Its balmy scent and dewy eye:
‘Tis not for them I moan.
It is the slight and stately stem,
The blossom’s silvery blue,
The buds hid like a sapphire gem
In sheaths of emerald hue.
‘Tis these that breathe upon my heart
A calm and softening spell
That if it makes the tear-drop start
Has power to soothe as well.
For these I weep, so long divided
Through winter’s dreary day,
In longing weep – but most when guided
On withered banks to stray.
If chilly then the light should fall
Adown the dreary sky
And gild the dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy,
How do I yearn, how do I pine
For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine
To mourn the fields of home –
Charlotte Brontë – Life
Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!
We have finished with a particularly apt poem by Charlotte Brontë, as this week marked the anniversary of her death on the 31st March 1855. As she prophesied in this poem, however, the shower of that tragic event has not stopped the roses of her work blooming. It is a poem of courage and final triumph, which also lies at the heart of the Easter message.
Whatever your beliefs, whether this is a day for choirs or chocolates, I hope you have a very happy day, and I hope you can join me next Sunday for another new Brontë blog.