Emily Brontë

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No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.

Emily Jane Brontë (30 July 181819 December 1848), one of the Brontë sisters, was an English novelist and poet, sister of Charlotte and Anne Brontë. She is most famous for her only novel, Wuthering Heights. She wrote under the pen name Ellis Bell.


I Am the Only Being (1836)[edit]

I am the only being whose doom
No tongue would ask no eye would mourn...
Full text at Wikisource
  • I am the only being whose doom
    No tongue would ask no eye would mourn

    I never caused a thought of gloom
    A smile of joy since I was born
    In secret pleasure — secret tears
    This changeful life has slipped away

    As friendless after eighteen years
    As lone as on my natal day
  • First melted off the hope of youth
    Then Fancy's rainbow fast withdrew
    And then experience told me truth
    In mortal bosoms never grew
    'Twas grief enough to think mankind
    All hollow servile insincere
    But worse to trust to my own mind
    And find the same corruption there

Spellbound (November 1837)[edit]

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.
  • The night is darkening round me,
    The wild winds coldly blow;
    But a tyrant spell has bound me
    And I cannot, cannot go.

    The giant trees are bending
    Their bare boughs weighed with snow,
    And the storm is fast descending,
    And yet I cannot go.

    Clouds beyond clouds above me,
    Wastes beyond wastes below;
    But nothing drear can move me—
    I will not, cannot go.

Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee (May 1841)[edit]

Shall Earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Full text at Wikisource
  • Shall Earth no more inspire thee,
    Thou lonely dreamer now?

    Since passion may not fire thee
    Shall Nature cease to bow?
    Thy mind is ever moving
    In regions dark to thee;
    Recall its useless roving —
    Come back and dwell with me —
  • I've watched thee every hour —
    I know my mighty sway —
    I know my magic power
    To drive thy griefs away —
  • Then let my winds caress thee —
    Thy comrade let me be —
    Since naught beside can bless thee
    Return and dwell with me —

The Prisoner (October 1841)[edit]

Full text at Wikisource
  • He comes with western winds, with evening's wandering airs,
    With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars;
    Winds take a pensive tone and stars a tender fire
    And visions rise and change which kills me with desire.
  • But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends;
    The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends
    Mute music sooths my breast — unuttered harmony
    That I could never dream till earth was lost to me.

    Then dawns the Invisible; the Unseen its truth reveals;
    My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels —
    Its wings are almost free, it is home, its harbor found;
    Measuring the gulf, it stoops and dares the final bound —

    O, dreadful is the check — intense the agony
    When the ear begins to hear and the eye begins to see;
    When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again,
    The soul to feel the flesh and the flesh to feel the chain.

    Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less;
    The more that anguish racks the earlier it will bless;
    And robed in fires of Hell, or bright with heavenly shine
    If it but herald Death, the vision is divine —

What Use Is It To Slumber Here?[edit]

The rose ray of the closing day
May promise a brighter morrow.
  • What use is it to slumber here:
    Though the heart be sad and weary?

    What use is it to slumber here
    Though the day rise dark and dreary?
  • For that mist may break when the sun is high
    And this soul forget its sorrow
    And the rose ray of the closing day
    May promise a brighter morrow.

Love and Friendship[edit]

The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?
  • Love is like the wild rose-briar;
    Friendship like the holly-tree.
    The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms,
    But which will bloom most constantly?

A Little While, a Little While (1846)[edit]

  • Still, as I mused, the naked room,
    The alien firelight died away;
    And from the midst of cheerless gloom
    I passed to bright, unclouded day.
    • Stanza vi.
  • A heaven so clear, an earth so calm,
    So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air;
    And, deepening still the dreamlike charm,
    Wild moor-sheep feeding everywhere.
    • Stanza vii.

To Imagination (1846)[edit]

  • When weary with the long day's care,
    And earthly change from pain to pain,
    And lost and ready to despair,
    Thy kind voice calls me back again:
    Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
    While thou canst speak with such a tone!
  • So hopeless is the world without;
    The world within I doubly prize;
    Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
    And cold suspicion never rise;
    Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
    Have undisputed sovereignty.
  • What matters it, that, all around,
    Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
    If but within our bosom's bound
    We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
    Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
    Of suns that know no winter days?
  • Reason, indeed, may oft complain
    For Nature's sad reality,
    And tell the suffering heart, how vain
    Its cherished dreams must always be;
    And Truth may rudely trample down
    The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:
  • But, thou art ever there, to bring
    The hovering vision back, and breathe
    New glories o'er the blighted spring,
    And call a lovelier Life from Death,
    And whisper, with a voice divine,
    Of real worlds, as bright as thine.
  • I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
    Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour,
    With never-failing thankfulness,
    I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
    Sure solacer of human cares,
    And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!

Remembrance (1846)[edit]

Full text at Wikisource
  • Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
    Far, far, removed, cold in the dreary grave!
    Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
    Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?
  • Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
    While the world's tide is bearing me along;
    Other desires and other hopes beset me,
    Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!
  • But when the days of golden dreams had perished,
    And even Despair was powerless to destroy;
    Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
    Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.

Faith and Despondency (1846)[edit]

Full text at Wikisource
  • The winter wind is loud and wild,
    Come close to me, my darling child;
    Forsake thy books, and mateless play;
    And, while the night is gathering grey,
    We'll talk its pensive hours away;—

No Coward Soul Is Mine (1846)[edit]

There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou — Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
Despite Charlotte's claim, it is not the last Emily's poem Full text at Wikisource
  • No coward soul is mine,
    No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
    I see Heaven's glories shine,
    And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.

    O God within my breast,
    Almighty, ever-present Deity!
    Life — that in me has rest,
    As I — undying Life — have power in Thee!

    Vain are the thousand creeds
    That move men's hearts: unutterably vain
    Worthless as withered weeds,
    Or idlest froth amid the boundless main...

  • With wide-embracing love
    Thy Spirit animates eternal years
    Pervades and broods above,
    Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.

    Though earth and moon were gone,
    And suns and universes ceased to be,
    And Thou wert left alone,
    Every existence would exist in Thee.

    There is not room for Death,
    Nor atom that his might could render void:
    Thou — Thou art Being and Breath,
    And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

The Old Stoic (1846)[edit]

  • Yes, as my swift days near their goal
    'Tis all that I implore
    In life and death a chainless soul
    With courage to endure

Wuthering Heights (1847)[edit]

See Wuthering Heights

Quotes about Brontë[edit]

  • The English writers who had a big influence on me during my adolescence were Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf.
  • Miss Emily était beaucoup moins brillante que sa sœur mais bien plus sympathique.
    • Miss Emily was considerably less brilliant than her sister [Charlotte] but much more sympathetic.
    • Louise de Bassompierre, Emily's fellow student in Brussels, Two Brussels Schoolfellows of Charlotte Brontë Brontë Society Transactions, 5:23 (1913)
  • Emily is not very fond of teaching but she would nevertheless take care of the housekeeping, and though she is rather withdrawn she has too kind a heart not to do her utmost for the well-being of the children — she is also very generous soul...
  • My sister's [Emily's] disposition was not naturally gregarious; circumstances favoured and fostered her tendency to seclusion; except to go to church or take a walk on the hills, she rarely crossed the threshold of home. Though her feeling for the people round was benevolent, intercourse with them she never sought; nor, with very few exceptions, ever experienced. And yet she know them: knew their ways, their language, their family histories; she could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail, minute, graphic, and accurate; but WITH them, she rarely exchanged a word.
  • Why should Wuthering Heights appear so entirely satisfying? Perhaps because it is a symbolic representation of what Emily Brontë felt about the universe. Passionate in its beauty and intensity, as well as its spiritual fervour. Unlike those Victorian values which contemporary society, "respectable" society, held so dear, the people in Emily Brontë's novel, Heathcliff and Cathy, are neither good nor bad. They are wild or tame. They are the storm, or calm.
    • Lord David Cecil, quoted in Patrick Garland, 'David As Lecturer and Critic', in David Cecil: A Portrait by his Friends (1990), p. 119
  • When I was fourteen I used to read literature in English. I read textbooks and the newspapers in Spanish, but when I really started to get into literature was when I started reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights…When I started reading Wuthering Heights, it just put my hair on end. I couldn't put it down. I read it two or three times, one right after the other.
    • Rosario Ferré interview in Backtalk: Women Writers Speak Out by Donna Marie Perry (1993)
  • Emily Bronte was a wild, original, and striking creature, but her one book is a kind of prose Kubla Khan, — a nightmare of the superheated imagination.
  • She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman... impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned.
    • Constantin Héger, (Emily's teacher in Brussels in 1842,) in a letter to Mrs. Gaskell, as quoted in The Oxford History of the Novel in English, Vol. III (2011), p. 208.
  • (Whom do you consider your literary heroes?) Toni Morrison, Grace Paley, Emily Brontë, Ray Bradbury, all for different reasons, all adored...(Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?) All time — Emily Brontë, author of the greatest psychological novel ever written, with the most complex character ever conceived.
  • The character of Emily Brontë was a peculiar mixture of timidity and Spartan-like courage. She was painfully shy, but physically she was brave to a surprising degree. She loved few persons, but those few with a passion of self-sacrificing tenderness and devotion. To other people's failings she was lenient and forgiving, but over herself she kept a continual and most austere watch, never allowing herself to deviate for one instant from what she considered her duty. She fought with her weakness to the very last, keeping up, and, marvellous to relate, about her accustomed duties in the house; and refusing strenuously to admit that anything ailed her, or to see a doctor. Her inflexibility of purpose was more like that of a strong man than of a delicate, weak woman...
    • Eva Hope, Queens of Literature of the Victorian Era (1886), p. 168
  • What is said of Charlotte may, with almost equal truth, be said of Emily and Anne; though they differed greatly in many points of character and disposition, they were each and all on common ground if a principle had to be maintained or a sham to be detected. They were all jealous of anything hollow or unreal. All were resolutely single-minded, eminently courageous, eminently simple in their habits, and eminently tender-hearted.
    • Ellen Nussey, Reminiscences of Charlotte Brontë (1871)
  • Emily Brontë had by this time acquired a lithesome, graceful figure. She was the tallest person in the house, except her father. Her hair, which was naturally as beautiful as Charlotte's, was in the same unbecoming tight curl and frizz, and there was the same want of complexion. She had very beautiful eyes – kind, kindling, liquid eyes; but she did not often look at you; she was too reserved. Their colour might be said to be dark grey, at other times dark blue, they varied so. She talked very little. She and Anne were like twins – inseparable companions, and in the very closest sympathy, which never had any interruption.
    • Ellen Nussey, Reminiscences of Charlotte Brontë (1871)
  • So very little is known of Emily Brontë that every little detail awakens an interest. Her extreme reserve seemed impenetrable, yet she was intensely lovable; she invited confidence in her moral power. Few people have the gift of looking and smiling as she could look and smile. One of her rare expressive looks was something to remember through life, there was such a depth of soul and feeling, and yet a shyness of revealing herself—a strength of self-containment seen in no other. She was in the strictest sense a law unto herself, and a heroine in keeping to her law. She and gentle Anne were to be seen twined together as united statues of power and humility. They were to be seen with their arms lacing each other in their younger days whenever their occupations permitted their Union. On the top of a moor or in a deep glen Emily was a child in spirit for glee and enjoyment; or when thrown entirely on her own resources to do a kindness, she could be vivacious in conversation and enjoy giving pleasure. A spell of mischief also lurked in her on occasions when out on the moors. She enjoyed leading Charlotte where she would not dare to go of her own free-will. Charlotte had a mortal dread of unknown animals, and it was Emily's pleasure to lead her into close vicinity, and then to tell her of how and of what she had done, laughing at her horror with great amusement. If Emily wanted a book she might have left in the sitting-room she would dart in again without looking at any one, especially if any guest were present. Among the curates, Mr. Weightman was her only exception for any conventional courtesy. The ability with which she took up music was amazing; the style, the touch, and the expression was that of a professor absorbed heart and soul in his theme. The two dogs, Keeper and Flossy, were always in quiet waiting by the side of Emily and Anne during their breakfast of Scotch oatmeal and milk, and always had a share handed down to them at the close of the meal. Poor old Keeper, Emily's faithful friend and worshipper, seemed to understand her like a human being. One evening, when the four friends were sitting closely round the fire in the sitting-room, Keeper forced himself in between Charlotte and Emily and mounted himself on Emily's lap; finding the space too limited for his comfort he pressed himself forward on to the guest's knees, making himself quite comfortable. Emily's heart was won by the unresisting endurance of the visitor, little guessing that she herself, being in close contact, was the inspiring cause of submission to Keeper's preference. Sometimes Emily would delight in showing off Keeper—make him frantic in action, and roar with the voice of a lion. It was a terrifying exhibition within the walls of an ordinary sitting-room. Keeper was a solemn mourner at Emily's funeral and never recovered his cheerfulness.
    • Ellen Nussey, quoted in Charlotte Brontë by Rebecca Fraser (1988), p. 296
  • Wuthering Heights is a more difficult book to understand than Jane Eyre, because Emily was a greater poet than Charlotte. When Charlotte wrote she said with eloquence and splendour and passion “I love”, “I hate”, “I suffer”. Her experience, though more intense, is on a level with our own. But there is no “I” in Wuthering Heights. There are no governesses. There are no employers. There is love, but it is not the love of men and women. Emily was inspired by some more general conception. The impulse which urged her to create was not her own suffering or her own injuries. She looked out upon a world cleft into gigantic disorder and felt within her the power to unite it in a book. That gigantic ambition is to be felt throughout the novel — a struggle, half thwarted but of superb conviction, to say something through the mouths of her characters which is not merely “I love” or “I hate”, but “we, the whole human race” and “you, the eternal powers . . . ” the sentence remains unfinished. It is not strange that it should be so; rather it is astonishing that she can make us feel what she had it in her to say at all. It surges up in the half-articulate words of Catherine Earnshaw, “If all else perished and HE remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem part of it”. It breaks out again in the presence of the dead. “I see a repose that neither earth nor hell can break, and I feel an assurance of the endless and shadowless hereafter — the eternity they have entered — where life is boundless in its duration, and love in its sympathy and joy in its fulness.” It is this suggestion of power underlying the apparitions of human nature and lifting them up into the presence of greatness that gives the book its huge stature among other novels. But it was not enough for Emily Brontë to write a few lyrics, to utter a cry, to express a creed. In her poems she did this once and for all, and her poems will perhaps outlast her novel. But she was novelist as well as poet. She must take upon herself a more laborious and a more ungrateful task. She must face the fact of other existences, grapple with the mechanism of external things, build up, in recognisable shape, farms and houses and report the speeches of men and women who existed independently of herself. And so we reach these summits of emotion not by rant or rhapsody but by hearing a girl sing old songs to herself as she rocks in the branches of a tree; by watching the moor sheep crop the turf; by listening to the soft wind breathing through the grass. The life at the farm with all its absurdities and its improbability is laid open to us. We are given every opportunity of comparing Wuthering Heights with a real farm and Heathcliff with a real man. How, we are allowed to ask, can there be truth or insight or the finer shades of emotion in men and women who so little resemble what we have seen ourselves? But even as we ask it we see in Heathcliff the brother that a sister of genius might have seen; he is impossible we say, but nevertheless no boy in literature has a more vivid existence than his. So it is with the two Catherines; never could women feel as they do or act in their manner, we say. All the same, they are the most lovable women in English fiction. It is as if she could tear up all that we know human beings by, and fill these unrecognisable transparences with such a gust of life that they transcend reality. Hers, then, is the rarest of all powers. She could free life from its dependence on facts; with a few touches indicate the spirit of a face so that it needs no body; by speaking of the moor make the wind blow and the thunder roar.

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