Frances

Charlotte Brontë 1816 (Thornton, West Yorkshire) – 1855 (Haworth)

SHE will not sleep, for fear of dreams,
But, rising, quits her restless bed,
And walks where some beclouded beams
Of moonlight through the hall are shed.

Obedient to the goad of grief,
Her steps, now fast, now lingering slow,
In varying motion seek relief
From the Eumenides of woe.

Wringing her hands, at intervals­
But long as mute as phantom dim­
She glides along the dusky walls,
Under the black oak rafters, grim.

The close air of the grated tower
Stifles a heart that scarce can beat,
And, though so late and lone the hour,
Forth pass her wandering, faltering feet;

And on the pavement, spread before
The long front of the mansion grey,
Her steps imprint the night-frost hoar,
Which pale on grass and granite lay.

Not long she stayed where misty moon
And shimmering stars could on her look,
But through the garden arch-way, soon
Her strange and gloomy path she took.

Some firs, coeval with the tower,
Their straight black boughs stretched o'er her head,
Unseen, beneath this sable bower,
Rustled her dress and rapid tread.

There was an alcove in that shade,
Screening a rustic-seat and stand;
Weary she sat her down and laid
Her hot brow on her burning hand.

To solitude and to the night,
Some words she now, in murmurs, said;
And, trickling through her fingers white,
Some tears of misery she shed.

' God help me, in my grievous need,
God help me, in my inward pain;
Which cannot ask for pity's meed,
Which has no license to complain;

Which must be borne, yet who can bear,
Hours long, days long, a constant weight­
The yoke of absolute despair,
A suffering wholly desolate ?

Who can for ever crush the heart,
Restrain its throbbing, curb its life ?
Dissemble truth with ceaseless art,
With outward calm, mask inward strife ?'

She waited­as for some reply;
The still and cloudy night gave none;
Erelong, with deep-drawn, trembling sigh,
Her heavy plaint again begun.

' Unloved­I love; unwept­I weep;
Grief I restrain­hope I repress:
Vain is this anguish­fixed and deep;
Vainer, desires and dreams of bliss.

My love awakes no love again,
My tears collect, and fall unfelt;
My sorrow touches none with pain,
My humble hopes to nothing melt.

For me the universe is dumb,
Stone-deaf, and blank, and wholly blind;
Life I must bound, existence sum
In the strait limits of one mind;

That mind my own. Oh ! narrow cell;
Dark­imageless­a living tomb !
There must I sleep, there wake and dwell
Content, with palsy, pain, and gloom.'

Again she paused; a moan of pain,
A stifled sob, alone was heard;
Long silence followed­then again,
Her voice the stagnant midnight stirred.

' Must it be so ? Is this my fate ?
Can I nor struggle, nor contend ?
And am I doomed for years to wait,
Watching death's lingering axe descend ?

And when it falls, and when I die,
What follows ? Vacant nothingness ?
The blank of lost identity ?
Erasure both of pain and bliss ?

I've heard of heaven­I would believe;
For if this earth indeed be all,
Who longest lives may deepest grieve,
Most blest, whom sorrows soonest call.

Oh ! leaving disappointment here,
Will man find hope on yonder coast ?
Hope, which, on earth, shines never clear,
And oft in clouds is wholly lost.

Will he hope's source of light behold,
Fruition's spring, where doubts expire,
And drink, in waves of living gold,
Contentment, full, for long desire ?

Will he find bliss, which here he dreamed ?
Rest, which was weariness on earth ?
Knowledge, which, if o'er life it beamed,
Served but to prove it void of worth ?

Will he find love without lust's leaven,
Love fearless, tearless, perfect, pure,
To all with equal bounty given,
In all, unfeigned, unfailing, sure ?

Will he, from penal sufferings free,
Released from shroud and wormy clod,
All calm and glorious, rise and see
Creation's Sire­Existence' God ?

Then, glancing back on Time's brief woes,
Will he behold them, fading, fly;
Swept from Eternity's repose,
Like sullying cloud, from pure blue sky ?

If so­endure, my weary frame;
And when thy anguish strikes too deep,
And when all troubled burns life's flame,
Think of the quiet, final sleep;

Think of the glorious waking-hour,
Which will not dawn on grief and tears,
But on a ransomed spirit's power,
Certain, and free
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels are English literature standards. more…

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