I know not how it falls on me,
This summer evening, hushed and lone;
Yet the faint wind comes soothingly
With something of an olden tone.
Forgive me if I’ve shunned so long
Your gentle greeting, earth and air!
But sorrow withers even the strong,
And who can fight against despair?
The author of Wuthering Heights, and one of the classical sisters, started off in literature as a poet (in fact, all three of them did). Her creations had two common characteristics: relative brevity and excruciating sadness. The latter is a forgivable trait in a young woman’s life full of loss and stoicism, a life that was to end when she barely turned 30, but the former is a rare achievement in the English language corpus. English poetry, it has to be said, tends to be quite wordy. Think Keats. Or Browning. Even Byron.
(The Russians are an example of the opposite. They founded an 8-liner cult and have competed with each other ever since to elevate its art to the stratosphere.)
The sisters were Irish, you know. Their last name was a contortion of a Gaelic noun, and their Irish protestant daddy Patrick Brunty proudly changed its spelling to mount the diaeresis above the ‘e’. It is likely that the purpose was to inject a bit of class in an odd-sounding name. Patrick was strong willed and lived a long life; he was 84 when he died, having survived all his children, including the drug-addict only son and the famous literary trio. But as much as their father’s daughters, they were Yorkshire lasses, creatures of the moors to be sure, of those dreary leaden skies and heather-covered crags.
What of Emily’s poetry? In my earlier post on John Clary I mentioned Arthur Symons’ treatise on the Symbolist movement. Symons also penned the Introduction to the 1906 edition of “Poems of Emily Brontë” published in London by William Heinemann. He wrote:
… but some of that long endurance of her life, in which exile, the body’s weakness, and a sense of some divinest anguish which clung about the world and all things living, had their share, she was able to put into ascetic and passionate verse. It is sad-coloured and desolate, but when gleams of sunlight or of starlight pierce the clouds that hang generally above it, a rare and stormy beauty comes into the bare outlines, quickening them with living splendour.
Have a peaceful weekend, wherever you are.