Monday, June 7, 2010

Poetry by the Brontë Sisters

Born in Thornton, England in the early 1800s, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë were greatly influenced by Gothic fiction. Charlotte is best known for her novel Jane Eyre, Emily for Wuthering Heights, and Anne for Agnes Grey. Each was published in 1847, and caused a sensation when they were first published. Today they are regarded as classics of English literature. I read both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights many years ago. For Laura's All About the Brontës reading challenge I decided to focus on a different aspect of their work.

The Bronte sisters were also poets. In fact, this is how they began their literary careers. In 1846, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne published a volume of poetry together, Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, their first work to be published. Because of the prejudice against female writers during their lives, the Brontë sisters adopted androgynous pen names. Charlotte became Currer Bell, Anne became Acton Bell, and Emily became Ellis Bell. The first edition of their poetry collection, printed in London, failed to attract much interest, and a mere two copies were sold. However, the Brontë sisters decided to continue writing and began work on their novels, which were published and quite successful.

Here is a sampling of their poetry:

Evening Solace

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame's or Wealth's illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.

But, there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart's best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish,
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.

And feelings, once as strong as passions,
Float softly backa faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others' sufferings seem.
Oh ! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven,
Seeking a life and world to come.

~Charlotte Brontë (1816-1885)

Riches I hold in light esteem

Riches I hold in light esteem
And Love I laugh to scorn
And lust of Fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn–

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is–"Leave the heart that now I bear
And give me liberty."

Yes, as my swift days near their goal
'Tis all that I implore
Through life and death, a chainless soul
With courage to endure!

~Emily Brontë (1818-1848)

A Reminiscence

Yes, thou art gone! and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door,
And pace the floor that covers thee,

May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that, frozen, lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.

Yet, though I cannot see thee more,
'Tis still a comfort to have seen;
And though thy transient life is o'er,
'Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;

To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form so angel fair,
United to a heart like thine,
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.

~Anne Brontë (1820-1849 )

Much of their poetry and fiction may be read online, on Project Gutenberg and numerous other sites.


  1. Great post! I've always enjoyed reading the Brontes' work. And I also think Project Gutenberg is a wonderful online site. I've visited it often.

  2. Sadly, poetry is not something I readily fall for. However, I appreciate my blogging friends bringing it to my attention!

  3. Sometimes I am ashamed to call myself British. I had no idea the Bronte sisters wrote poetry, though after such a painful experience with Wuthering Heights I am wary to read the poems.

  4. I also had no idea that the Bronte sisters wrote poetry!! I would love to get my hands on this book to sample it a bit. Great review, Suko! I don't read much poetry anymore, but I have been interested in starting to pick it up again.

  5. LuAnn, when I first discovered Project Gutenberg a couple of years ago, I thought, "wow!". And I still feel that way. It's wonderful!

    Kathy and Yvonne, thanks!

    Bellezza, I'm trying to read/comprehend more poetry because I've struggled with it in the past. :)

    Vivienne and Zibilee, I found it quite interesting that the Brontë sisters published their poems before their fiction, both with noms de plume.

    More comments welcomed.

  6. Great post Suko!
    I really like 'A Reminiscence'. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Naida, thanks! Your posts have encouraged me to explore more poetry! :)

  8. thanks so much for letting us know where we can read their poems on line-this is a very good practice I hope will become more wide spread

  9. The only thing I've read by any of the Brontes is Jane Eyre. I really need to rectify that. Thanks for bringing their poetry to my attention.


  10. Mel and Anna, I'm responding to your comments in a "better late than never" fashion. It's remarkable what you can read and discover online! Thanks as usual for your comments. :)


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