Sometimes when life throws you a curve-ball or slips a banana skin under your socks you have to turn to the things you love to lift your spirits again; with me, of course, that’s the Brontës, so in today’s post we’ll be looking at a very special poem written on this day 178 years ago!
This weekend I should have been holding a meeting to put in place an events team to raise much needed funds for The Sheffield Cats Shelter. Unfortunately I’ve tested positive for Covid. It’s finally got me, and whilst I feel okay I’m hugely disappointed that the fundraising meeting has had to be postponed – if you can help our cats and kittens in need please click here, where every pound is put to good use! I was also supposed to be heading to Formentera on holiday next week, so that’s off too. I obviously needed some good news to cheer me up, and thankfully that’s exactly what Brontë lovers got this week!
You may remember my recent post about ‘A Book Of Rhymes’, the tiny book of poetry by a young Charlotte Brontë which had been thought lost for over a hundred years until it recently surfaced again? It was announced that the book was sold for its full asking price of $1.25 million at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair last week, but it was reported that it was sold to an anonymous source, giving rise to fears that this precious little book would disappear from view once more.
This week, the identity of the winning bidder was revealed, and it was a great relief to hear that it was the wonderful organisation Friends Of The National Libraries who have in turn gifted it to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth. ‘A Book Of Rhymes’ will be coming home at last!
I had been invited to talk about this great news on Irish radio this week but the producer and presenter both came down with Covid, so take care, dear reader, it’s rife out there at the moment.
Friends Of The National Libraries raise funds through their many supporters, but there were nine large supporters for this particular bid, one of which was the estate of the late, great Thomas Stearns Eliot.
T. S. Eliot was undoubtedly one of the greatest poets of all time and a towering figure in twentieth century literature, and his estate’s use of his money to secure Charlotte Brontë’s little book certainly wasn’t a waste(land). Alongside his rather serious, if brilliant, work, Eliot also wrote the children’s book of poetry upon which the musical ‘Cats’ was based of course, which is a nice link in more ways than one: in 2020 the same estate donated £20,000 from its ‘Cats’ royalties to the Brontë Parsonage Museum to help its coronavirus relief fund.
Although their style of writing was very different, Eliot would surely have appreciated the poetic genius of Emily Brontë. On this day in 1845 Emily Brontë wrote one of her finest pieces of poetry, a May Day look at nature in all her beauty and the endless cycle of life, death and renewal. As with all great Brontë poetry that too elevates my spirits, and I hope it will with yours too. I also hope you can join me next week when Deo volente (as Charlotte often said) I will bring you a new plague-free Bronte blog post. I leave you now with Emily Brontë and a certain linnet amidst the rocky dells where a lady sleeps forevermore:
‘The linnet in the rocky dells,
The moor-lark in the air,
The bee among the heather-bells
That hide my lady fair:
The wild deer browse above her breast;
The wild birds raise their brood;
And they, her smiles of love caressed,
Have left their solitude!
I ween, that when the grave’s dark wall
Did first her form retain,
They thought their hearts could ne’er recall
The light of joy again.
They thought the tide of grief would flow
Unchecked through future years,
But where is all their anguish now,
And where are all their tears?
Well, let them fight for Honour’s breath,
Or Pleasure’s shade pursue –
The Dweller in the land of Death
Is changed and careless too.
And if their eyes should watch and weep
Till sorrow’s source were dry
She would not, in her tranquil sleep,
Return a single sigh!
Blow, west wind, pass by the lonely mound,
And murmur, summer streams –
There is no need of other sound
To soothe my Lady’s dreams.’