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A Poem by Emily Brontë

“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



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A Letter from Charlotte Bronte

Why I read the Brontës


Jane EyreLately, I have been immersing myself in the life of the Brontes because I am in love with their books (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) and also because Charlotte, Emily, and Anne amaze and inspire me.  These young women lived through incredible loss and hardship, (that’s a whole other blog), and still they remained loyal to their imaginations and true to themselves.  Sadly, Charlotte was the only one of her sisters who lived beyond 30, dying at 38.  Anne died at 29.  Emily at 30.  And, yet this 19th century trio of English writers left a legacy of lasting beauty and wholly original thought.  Despite the overwhelming obstacles that continually assailed them, they NEVER made excuses.  They rose above.




I am always on the look out for inspiration, which I consider a defense of the spirit, and when I came across the following letter from 16 year-old Charlotte (Jane Eyre) to her best friend Ellen Nussey, I couldn’t help being inspired by her ideals.  What strikes me is not the eloquence of the writing, but the depth of thought, desire for virtue, and love of ideas. This is a letter written by a 16 year-old girl!  Can our day and age produce teenagers capable of this mindstream? Keep in mind Charlotte was a poor clergyman’s daughter who had far less access to books and education than we do.


“Dear Ellen,

I believe we agreed to correspond once a month; that space of time has now elapsed since I received your last interesting letter, and I now therefore hasten to reply.  Accept my congratulations on the arrival of the ‘New Year’, every succeeding day of which will I trust, find you wiser and better in the true sense of those much used words. The first day of January always presents to my mind a train of very solemn and important reflections, and a question more easily asked than answered, frequently occurs, viz.: How have I improved the past year, and with what good intentions do I view the dawn of its successor? These, my dearest Ellen, are weighty considerations which (young as we are) neither you nor I can too deeply or too seriously ponder.


I am sorry your two great diffidences, arising, I think, from the want of sufficient confidence in your own capabilities, prevented you from writing to me in French, as I think the attempt would have materially contributed to your improvement in that language. You very kindly caution me against being tempted by the fondness of my sisters to consider myself of too much importance, and then in a parenthesis you beg me not to be offended. O! Ellen, do you think I could be offended by any good advice you may give me? No, I thank you heartily, and love you, if possible, better for it.


. . .


I am glad you like Kenilworth; it is certainly a splendid production, more resembling a Romance than a Novel, and in my opinion one of the most interesting works that ever emanated from the great Sir Walter [Scott’s] pen. I was exceedingly amused at the characteristic and naive manner in which you expressed your detestation of Varney’s character, so much so indeed, that I could not forbear laughing aloud when I perused that part of your letter; he is certainly the personification of consummate villainy, and in the delineation of his dark and profoundly artful mind, Scott exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature, as well as surprising skill in embodying his perceptions so as to enable others to become participators in that knowledge.


Excuse the want of news in this very barren epistle, for I really have none to communicate.  Emily and Anne beg to be kindly remembered to you.  Give my best love to your mother and sisters, and as it is very late permit me to conclude with the assurance of my unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable affection for you.

Adieu, my sweetest Ellen;
I am ever yours,
January 1, 1833


Essence of the Brontës

I came across the above letter in this fascinating and charmingly opinionated compilation of essays and letters by Muriel Spark, another writer deeply inspired by the Brontës.

“How have I improved the past year, and with what good intentions do I view the dawn of its successor?”



This letter may sound pretentious to some, but Charlotte wasn’t pretending anything–she cared intensely about all the points in her letter.  Improvement, the study of French, a love of literature, and a striving for virtue were lifelong preoccupations.  It sounds strange in today’s world of social media madness that two teenage girls could converse like this.  (How can our schools eradicate cursive?!!!)  It goes to show that we become what we direct our attention toward.  What we read or don’t read, what we watch or scan or write becomes a part of our mindstream.  Anyone who thinks it doesn’t is in denial.  Whether we elevate or degrade our own minds and therefore our spirits is entirely up to us.


No matter what we see, no matter what we suffer, we are responsible for our quality of mind.  There are no excuses.


Charlotte writes to Ellen that “Scott exhibits a wonderful knowledge of human nature, as well as surprising skill in embodying his perceptions so as to enable others to become participators in that knowledge.”  If only she knew at 16, that one day she too would do just that!  Her impossible dreams and lofty striving were not in vain and so, she has touched a million hearts.   Bravo Charlotte!


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