Yorkshire Bluebells

Emily Brontë’s Blue Bell Yearnings

There’s just one week and a day until Santa pulls up his slay and Christmas joy arrives for 24 glorious hours. At this time of year many of us are looking forward to the big day (or frantically wrapping presents) but Emily Brontë was already looking forward to Spring and the new life it heralds.

We know this because it was on the 18th of December 1838 that a 20 year old Emily wrote her poem ‘The Blue Bell’. Here it is:

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 —”

Through winter’s dreary day Emily longs for this most fragrant and colourful of wild flowers. We can imagine Emily and Anne, forever by each other’s side when together in Haworth, heading out to see the local bluebells, for Anne Brontë too wrote a poem dedicated to this flower. Here is her ‘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.”

Anne and Emily Bronte in 1834
Anne and Emily Bronte both wrote poems about bluebells

Whose poetic offering to the bluebell (or blue bell) do you like best? Let me know, and I hope to see you next Sunday for another new Brontë blog post. There will also of course, as long term readers and subscribers of my blog, be a special post on Christmas Day itself. May the week to come be a happy and stress-free one for you and your loved ones!

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