“Emily wanted to be a Night Walker before she knew what one was. Sometimes I think she summoned it.”
~Anne Brontë, Nightwalker
One of the deeply enjoyable aspects of writing Anne Bronte, Nightwalker was incorporating the Bronte’s poetry throughout the manuscript. When I came upon the following poem by Emily Bronte, #184 in The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë, ed.C.W. Hatfield, I couldn’t believe it. It fit my story so perfectly. In Nightwalker, Emily, unlike Anne, takes to the night naturally, far preferring it to the day. And then to stumble upon this poem, where in Emily’s own words, the sun brings fire, death and pain. What a surprise! And, I must admit, a perfect gift.
Here, Emily likens the sun to a weapon, “arrow-straight” whose fierce beams strike the brow. It blazes, blinds, and “drains the blood of suffering men.” She rejects the light, and despite the nightmares and insomnia that plagued her in real life, she longs for the night. For where the sun is harsh, the night is gentle. It brings a “pure” spell and union with . . . someone or something. A vision of Shelley perhaps? God? Night itself?
It’s to the Stars, Dreams, and Night that Emily pleads for protection.
This poem deeply inspired my story. It’s this poem that gave me inspiration for Anne’s words above, and showed me that Emily, despite the deep blackness of night on the moors, was unafraid of the darkness.
A Poem by Emily Jane Brontë
Ah! why, because the dazzling sun
Restored my earth to joy
Have you departed, every one,
And left a desert sky?
All through the night, your glorious eyes
Were gazing down in mine,
And with a full heart’s thankful sighs
I blessed that watch divine!
I was at peace, and drank your beams
As they were life to me
And reveled in my changeful dreams
Like petrel on the sea.
Thought followed thought–star followed star
Through boundless regions on,
While one sweet influence, near and far,
Thrilled through and proved us one.
Why did the morning rise to break
So great, so pure a spell,
And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek
Where your cool radiance fell?
Blood-red he rose, and arrow-straight
His fierce beams struck my brow:
The soul of nature sprang elate,
But mine sank sad and low!
My lids closed down–yet through their veil
I saw him blazing still;
And bathe in gold the misty dale,
And flash upon the hill.
I turned me to the pillow then
To call back Night, and see
Your worlds of solemn light, again
Throb with my heart and me!
It would not do–the pillow glowed
And glowed both roof and floor,
And birds sang loudly in the wood,
And fresh winds shook the door.
The curtains waved, the wakened flies
Were murmuring round my room,
Imprisoned there, till I should rise
And give them leave to roam.
O Stars and Dreams and Gentle Night;
O Night and Stars return!
And hide me from the hostile light
That does not warm, but burn–
That drains the blood of suffering men;
Drinks tears, instead of dew:
Let me sleep through his blinding reign,
And only wake with you!
Emily Jane Brontë
April 14, 1845