Monday, May 2, 2022

Charlotte Brontë*

Charlotte Brontë (1816—1855) is a Victorian poet, who — although the third of six children — is remembered as the eldest of the three Brontë sisters. Along with Emily and Anne, she released a collection of poetry in 1846. Charlotte’s poems in this collection are primarily narrative.

After the success of her novel Jane Eyre (1847), she shifted her full attention to writing fiction. Most writers will focus their efforts where they are finding success; Charlotte’s shift toward fiction also parallels the changing interests of the reading public during the 1830s and ‘40s.

Although Jane Eyre was criticized by the religious in Victorian England, Brontë responded in the preface to the second edition: “Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.”

Literary scholar Karen Swallow Prior says, “As she strives to create a sense of self within a set of conditions in which almost nothing is a given, Jane does so as a committed Christian… Even the heavy Romantic influences are transformed by Brontë’s Christian faith.”

Charlotte Brontë’s other novels are Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853). Her posthumously published fiction includes the earlier novel The Professor, and her story Emma, (not to be confused with the Jane Austen novel) which Charlotte had barely started, yet has been completed at various times by other writers.

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 back—a 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.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Charlotte Brontë: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.