Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

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Charlotte Brontë, Anne Brontë, Emily Brontë

Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

Published by Good Press, 2021


EAN 4064066314668

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Table of Contents


Table of Contents

I've quenched my lamp, I struck it in that start

Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall—­

The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart

Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall;

Over against my bed, there shone a gleam

Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.

It sunk, and I am wrapt in utter gloom;

How far is night advanced, and when will day

Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom,

And fill this void with warm, creative ray?

Would I could sleep again till, clear and red,

Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread!

I'd call my women, but to break their sleep,

Because my own is broken, were unjust;

​They've wrought all day, and well-earned slumbers steep

Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust;

Let me my feverish watch with patience bear,

Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.

Yet, Oh, for light! one ray would tranquilise

My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can;

I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies:

These trembling stars at dead of night look wan,

Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear

Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.

All black—­one great cloud, drawn from east to west,

Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below;

Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast

On yonder stony mount a lurid glow.

I see men stationed there, and gleaming spears;

A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.

Dull, measured, strokes of axe and hammer ring

From street to street, not loud, but through the night

Distinctly heard—­and some strange spectral thing

Is now upreared—­and, fixed against the light

Of the pale lamps; defined upon that sky,

It stands up like a column, straight and high.

I see it all—­I know the dusky sign—­

A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear

​While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine

Pilate, to judge the victim will appear,

Pass sentence—­yield him up to crucify;

And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.

Dreams, then, are true—­for thus my vision ran;

Surely some oracle has been with me,

The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan,

To warn an unjust judge of destiny:

I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know,

Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.

I do not weep for Pilate—­who could prove

Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway

No prayer can soften, no appeal can move;

Who tramples hearts as others trample clay,

Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread,

That might stir up reprisal in the dead.

Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds;

Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour,

In whose gaunt lines, the abhorrent gazer reads

A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power;

A soul whom motives, fierce, yet abject, urge

Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.

How can I love, or mourn, or pity him?


I, who so long my fettered hands have wrung;

​I, who for grief have wept my eye-sight dim;

Because, while life for me was bright and young,

He robbed my youth—­he quenched my life's fair ray—

He crushed my mind, and did my freedom slay.

And at this hour—­although I be his wife—

He has no more of tenderness from me

Than any other wretch of guilty life;

Less, for I know his household privacy—

I see him as he is—­without a screen;

And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien!

Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood—

Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly?

And have I not his red salute withstood?

Aye,—­when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee

In dark bereavement—­in affliction sore,

Mingling their very offerings with their gore.

Then came he—­in his eyes a serpent-smile,

Upon his lips some false, endearing word,

And, through the streets of Salem, clanged the while,

His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword—

And I, to see a man cause men such woe,

Trembled with ire—­I did not fear to show.

And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought

Jesus—­whom they in mockery call their king—

​To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought;

By this mean reptile, innocence to sting.

Oh! could I but the purposed doom avert,

And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt!

Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear,

Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf;

Could he this night's appalling vision hear,

This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe,

Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail,

And make even terror to their malice quail.

Yet if I tell the dream—­but let me pause.

What dream? Erewhile the characters were clear,

Graved on my brain—­at once some unknown cause

Has dimmed and rased the thoughts, which now appear,

Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene;—

Not what will be, but what, long since, has been.

I suffered many things, I heard foretold

A dreadful doom for Pilate,­—lingering woes,

In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold

Built up a solitude of trackless snows,

There, he and grisly wolves prowled side by side,

There he lived famished—­there methought he died;

But not of hunger, nor by malady;

I saw the snow around him, stained with gore;

​I said I had no tears for such as he,

And, lo! my cheek is wet—­mine eyes run o'er;

I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt,

I weep the impious deed—­the blood self-spilt.

More I recall not, yet the vision spread

Into a world remote, an age to come—

And still the illumined name of Jesus shed

A light, a clearness, through the enfolding gloom—

And still I saw that sign, which now I see,

That cross on yonder brow of Calvary.

What is this Hebrew Christ? To me unknown,

His lineage—­doctrine—­mission—­yet how clear,

Is God-like goodness, in his actions shewn!

How straight and stainless is his life's career!

The ray of Deity that rests on him,

In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim.

The world advances, Greek, or Roman rite

Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay;

The searching soul demands a purer light

To guide it on its upward, onward way;

Ashamed of sculptured gods—­Religion turns

To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns.

Our faith is rotten—­all our rites defiled,

Our temples sullied, and methinks, this man,

With his new ordinance, so wise and mild,

Is come, even as he says, the chaff to fan

​And sever from the wheat; but will his faith

Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death?


I feel a firmer trust—­a higher hope

Rise in my soul—­it dawns with dawning day;

Lo! on the Temple's roof—­on Moriah's slope

Appears at length that clear, and crimson ray,

Which I so wished for when shut in by night;

Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless your light!

Part, clouds and shadows! glorious Sun appear!

Part, mental gloom! Come insight from on high!

Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear,

The longing soul, doth still uncertain sigh.

Oh! to behold the truth—­that sun divine,

How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine!

This day, time travails with a mighty birth,

This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth,

Ere night descends, I shall more surely know

What guide to follow, in what path to go;

I wait in hope—I wait in solemn fear,

The oracle of God—the sole—true God—to hear.


For other versions of this work, see Faith and Despondency.


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"The winter wind is loud and wild,

Come close to me, my darling child;

Forsake thy books, and mateless play;

And, while the night is gathering grey,

We'll talk its pensive hours away;—

⁠"Iernë, round our sheltered hall

November's gusts unheeded call;

Not one faint breath can enter here

Enough to wave my daughter's hair,

And I am glad to watch the blaze

Glance from her eyes, with mimic rays;

To feel her cheek, so softly pressed,

In happy quiet on my breast.

⁠"But, yet, even this tranquillity

Brings bitter, restless thoughts to me;

And, in the red fire's cheerful glow,

I think of deep glens, blocked with snow;

I dream of moor, and misty hill,

Where evening closes dark and chill;

For, lone, among the mountains cold,

Lie those that I have loved of old.

And my heart aches, in hopeless pain

Exhausted with repinings vain,

That I shall greet them ne'er again!"

​⁠"Father, in early infancy,

When you were far beyond the sea,

Such thoughts were tyrants over me!

I often sat, for hours together,

Through the long nights of angry weather,

Raised on my pillow, to descry

The dim moon struggling in the sky;

Or, with strained ear, to catch the shock,

Of rock with wave, and wave with rock;

So would I fearful vigil keep,

And, all for listening, never sleep.

But this world's life has much to dread,

Not so, my Father, with the dead.

⁠"Oh! not for them, should we despair,

The grave is drear, but they are not there;

Their dust is mingled with the sod,

Their happy souls are gone to God!

You told me this, and yet you sigh,

And murmur that your friends must die.

Ah! my dear father, tell me why?

For, if your former words were true,

How useless would such sorrow be;

As wise, to mourn the seed which grew

Unnoticed on its parent tree,

Because it fell in fertile earth,

And sprang up to a glorious birth—

Struck deep its root, and lifted high

Its green boughs in the breezy sky.

​⁠"But, I'll not fear, I will not weep

For those whose bodies rest in sleep,—

I know there is a blessed shore,

⁠Opening its ports for me and mine;

And, gazing Time's wide waters o'er,

⁠I weary for that land divine,

Where we were born, where you and I

Shall meet our dearest, when we die;

From suffering and corruption free,

Restored into the Deity."

⁠"Well hast thou spoken, sweet, trustful child!

⁠And wiser than thy sire;

And worldly tempests, raging wild,

⁠Shall strengthen thy desire—

Thy fervent hope, through storm and foam,

⁠Through wind and ocean's roar,

To reach, at last, the eternal home,

⁠The steadfast, changeless shore!"



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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.



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Arranging long-locked drawers and shelves

Of cabinets, shut up for years,

What a strange task we've set ourselves!

How still the lonely room appears!

How strange this mass of ancient treasures,

Mementos of past pains and pleasures;

​These volumes, clasped with costly stone,

With print all faded, gilding gone;

These fans of leaves from Indian trees—

These crimson shells, from Indian seas—

These tiny portraits, set in rings—

Once, doubtless, deemed such precious things;

Keepsakes bestowed by Love on Faith,

And worn till the receiver's death,

Now stored with cameos, china, shells,

In this old closet's dusty cells.

I scarcely think, for ten long years,

A hand has touched these relics old;

And, coating each, slow-formed, appears,

The growth of green and antique mould.

All in this house is mossing over;

All is unused, and dim, and damp;

Nor light, nor warmth, the rooms discover—

Bereft for years of fire and lamp.

The sun, sometimes in summer, enters

The casements, with reviving ray;

But the long rains of many winters

Moulder the very walls away.

And outside all is ivy, clinging

To chimney, lattice, gable grey;

Scarcely one little red rose springing

Through the green moss can force its way.

​Unscared, the daw, and starling nestle,

Where the tall turret rises high,

And winds alone come near to rustle

The thick leaves where their cradles lie.

I sometimes think, when late at even

I climb the stair reluctantly,

Some shape that should be well in heaven,

Or ill elsewhere, will pass by me.

I fear to see the very faces,

Familiar thirty years ago,

Even in the old accustomed places

Which look so cold and gloomy now.

I've come, to close the window, hither,

At twilight, when the sun was down,

And Fear my very soul would wither,

Lest something should be dimly shown.

Too much the buried form resembling,

Of her who once was mistress here;

Lest doubtful shade, or moonbeam trembling,

Might take her aspect, once so dear.

Hers was this chamber; in her time

It seemed to me a pleasant room,

For then no cloud of grief or crime

Had cursed it with a settled gloom;

I had not seen death's image laid

In shroud and sheet, on yonder bed.

​Before she married, she was blest—

Blest in her youth, blest in her worth;

Her mind was calm, its sunny rest

Shone in her eyes more clear than mirth.

And when attired in rich array,

Light, lustrous hair about her brow,

She yonder sat—a kind of day

Lit up—what seems so gloomy now.

These grim oak walls, even then were grim;

That old carved chair, was then antique;

But what around looked dusk and dim

Served as a foil to her fresh cheek;

Her neck, and arms, of hue so fair,

Eyes of unclouded, smiling light;

Her soft, and curled, and floating hair,

Gems and attire, as rainbow bright.

Reclined in yonder deep recess,

Ofttimes she would, at evening, lie

Watching the sun; she seemed to bless


With happy glance the glorious sky.

She loved such scenes, and as she gazed,

Her face evinced her spirit's mood;

Beauty or grandeur ever raised

In her, a deep-felt gratitude.

But of all lovely things, she loved

A cloudless moon, on summer night;

​Full oft have I impatience proved

To see how long, her still delight

Would find a theme in reverie.

Out on the lawn, or where the trees

Let in the lustre fitfully,

As their boughs parted momently,

To the soft, languid, summer breeze.

Alas! that she should e'er have flung

Those pure, though lonely joys away—

Deceived by false and guileful tongue,

She gave her hand, then suffered wrong;

Oppressed, ill-used, she faded young,

And died of grief by slow decay.

Open that casket—look how bright

Those jewels flash upon the sight;

The brilliants have not lost a ray

Of lustre, since her wedding day.

But see—upon that pearly chain—

How dim lies time's discolouring stain!

I've seen that by her daughter worn:

For, e'er she died, a child was born;

A child that ne'er its mother knew,

That lone, and almost friendless grew;

For, ever, when its step drew nigh,

Averted was the father's eye;

And then, a life impure and wild

Made him a stranger to his child;

Absorbed in vice, he little cared

On what she did, or how she fared.

​The love withheld, she never sought,

She grew uncherished—learnt untaught;

To her the inward life of thought

⁠Full soon was open laid.

I know not if her friendlessness

Did sometimes on her spirit press,

⁠But plaint she never made.

The book-shelves were her darling treasure,

She rarely seemed the time to measure

⁠While she could read alone.

And she too loved the twilight wood,

And often, in her mother's mood,

Away to yonder hill would hie,

Like her, to watch the setting sun,

Or see the stars born, one by one,

⁠Out of the darkening sky.

Nor would she leave that hill till night

Trembled from pole to pole with light;

Even then, upon her homeward way,

Long—long her wandering steps delayed

To quit the sombre forest shade,

Through which her eerie pathway lay.

You ask if she had beauty's grace?

I know not—but a nobler face

⁠My eyes have seldom seen;

A keen and fine intelligence,

And, better still, the truest sense

⁠Were in her speaking mien.

But bloom or lustre was there none,

Only at moments, fitful shone

​⁠An ardour in her eye,

That kindled on her cheek a flush,

Warm as a red sky's passing blush

⁠And quick with energy.

Her speech, too, was not common speech,

No wish to shine, or aim to teach,

⁠Was in her words displayed:

She still began with quiet sense,

But oft the force of eloquence

⁠Came to her lips in aid;

Language and voice unconscious changed,

And thoughts, in other words arranged,

⁠Her fervid soul transfused

Into the hearts of those who heard,

And transient strength and ardour stirred,

⁠In minds to strength unused.

Yet in gay crowd or festal glare,

Grave and retiring was her air;

'Twas seldom, save with me alone,

That fire of feeling freely shone;

She loved not awe's nor wonder's gaze,

Nor even exaggerated praise,

Nor even notice, if too keen

The curious gazer searched her mien.

Nature's own green expanse revealed

The world, the pleasures, she could prize;

On free hill-side, in sunny field,

In quiet spots by woods concealed,

Grew wild and fresh her chosen joys,

Yet Nature's feelings deeply lay

​In that endowed and youthful frame;

Shrined in her heart and hid from day,

They burned unseen with silent flame;

In youth's first search for mental light,

She lived but to reflect and learn,

But soon her mind's maturer might

For stronger task did pant and yearn;

And stronger task did fate assign,

Task that a giant's strength might strain;

To suffer long and ne'er repine,

Be calm in frenzy, smile at pain.

Pale with the secret war of feeling,

Sustained with courage, mute, yet high;

The wounds at which she bled, revealing

Only by altered cheek and eye;

She bore in silence—but when passion

Surged in her soul with ceaseless foam,

The storm at last brought desolation,

And drove her exiled from her home.

And silent still, she straight assembled

The wrecks of strength her soul retained;

For though the wasted body trembled,

The unconquered mind, to quail, disdained.

She crossed the sea—now lone she wanders

By Seine's, or Rhine's, or Arno's flow;

​Fain would I know if distance renders

Relief or comfort to her woe.

Fain would I know if, henceforth, ever,

These eyes shall read in hers again,

That light of love which faded never,

Though dimmed so long with secret pain.

She will return, but cold and altered,

Like all whose hopes too soon depart;

Like all on whom have beat, unsheltered,

The bitter blasts that blight the heart.

No more shall I behold her lying

Calm on a pillow, smoothed by me;

No more that spirit, worn with sighing,

Will know the rest of infancy.

If still the paths of lore she follow,

'Twill be with tired and goaded will;

She'll only toil, the aching hollow,

The joyless blank of life to fill.

And oh! full oft, quite spent and weary,

Her hand will pause, her head decline;

That labour seems so hard and dreary,

On which no ray of hope may shine.

Thus the pale blight of time and sorrow

Will shade with grey her soft, dark hair;

​Then comes the day that knows no morrow,

And death succeeds to long despair.

So speaks experience, sage and hoary;

I see it plainly, know it well,

Like one who, having read a story,

Each incident therein can tell.

Touch not that ring, 'twas his, the sire

⁠Of that forsaken child;

And nought his relics can inspire

⁠Save memories, sin-defiled.

I, who sat by his wife's death-bed,

⁠I, who his daughter loved,

Could almost curse the guilty dead,

⁠For woes, the guiltless proved.

And heaven did curse—they found him laid,

⁠When crime for wrath was rife,

Cold—with the suicidal blade

⁠Clutched in his desperate gripe.

'Twas near that long deserted hut,

⁠Which in the wood decays,

Death's axe, self-wielded, struck his root,

⁠And lopped his desperate days.

You know the spot, where three black trees,

⁠Lift up their branches fell,

​And moaning, ceaseless as the seas,

Still seem, in every passing breeze,

⁠The deed of blood to tell.

They named him mad, and laid his bones

⁠Where holier ashes lie;

Yet doubt not that his spirit groans,

⁠In hell's eternity.

But, lo! night, closing o'er the earth,

⁠Infects our thoughts with gloom;

Come, let us strive to rally mirth,

Where glows a clear and tranquil hearth

⁠In some more cheerful room.