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.
This is a new post, the first I have written in– well, I don’t even know how long.
I was drawn to this remarkable poem when I recently watched the PBS Masterpiece series To Walk Invisible, about the Brontë sisters. It was so mesmerizing that I did something I’ve never done before: I bought my own copy of it as soon as I finished watching it.
I’ve always been more of a Jane Austen fan, though I loved Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I wasn’t as fond of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and never learned much about these literary sisters, knowing only what I learned from reading a fiction book based on Charlotte Brontë’s life.
After watching the Masterpiece series, which I highly recommend, I became interested in this poem by Emily, which is featured near the end. When I went searching for it I was surprised to find (from an online copy of the book in which it was originally published posthumously by her sister Charlotte) that it was the last thing she ever wrote, in a too-short life that had been filled with writing. (A photo of the first page of the poem in that book appears below.)
The poem resonated deeply with me. I identified strongly with the first verse in particular. I began to realize that the youthful self who so easily connected with the works of Jane Austen had grown into an older woman whose years of loss and grief brought a renewed understanding of what these sisters brought to their work. The emotional and functional turbulence of loving and living with an alcoholic brother, the support and consolation of sisters very different from each other, and the drive to express oneself through the freedom of writing when other doors are closed– all these struck sympathetic chords with me.
But it was the element of steadfast faith amid loss after loss that rang most strikingly. Like these sisters, whose father was a clergyman, I was reared with Christian devotion as the center of life, around which everything else revolved. Like them, I have often bristled at the hypocrisy and worldly disregard of suffering that is too present in many churches. Yet my very survival has depended on the absolute assurance that the One who is the focus of real or imagined devotion is unchanging and impervious to the failings of human effort. Emily’s poem is evidence that she shared this understanding of divine presence. I hope you share it too.