Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No Coward Soul is Mine by Emily Brontë

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 hast 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,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of immortality.
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.
I defy anyone who has read Wuthering Heights not to see a young woman roaming around the moors while writing that poem.  And what a brave poem it is!  So far from the sugary images of Christmas that many of us are now being force fed, like unfortunate French geese suffering gavage.
Indeed, the poem seems almost not to be confined within any one religion, but to be a unique vision of the writer's direct, unmediated relationship with God. There are references to a 'steadfast rock', but the human attempt to describe that rock seems best achieved by verbs: 'Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears'.
In that relationship with God, the poet is not confined by gender, place or time, and the radical  aspects of the poem's language seem to strain towards conveying this.  'Faith shines equal'.  Of course, the human world does not allow such freedom, then, when Brontë was writing, or now.  And the need to convey meaning ensures that even this poem is an aspect of a community, but it is as much a prayer as directed towards any reader.  Note that death is a 'he', but God is simply Thou throughout.  It is a terrifyingly intimate revelation, and a poem that I feel privileged to read, again and again.


***
This is the last Tuesday Poem for 2014, so I get to wish everyone a wonderful end of year and a joyous Christmas for those who celebrate it.
Let's hope for a more peaceful and inclusive 2015.

Editor P.S. Cottier blogs at pscottier.com

3 comments:

Satyendra pratap singh said...

nice poem. i also write poetry please review my blog http://satyendrakikavita.blogspot.in/

Helen McKinlay said...

Thanks for this Penelope. It's an incredibly brave poem, strong and positive too. And, for the writer of Wuthering Heights, which always seemed quite dark and emotional to me, it's full of hope...interesting. Was she older when she wrote it I wonder? And did she publish it in her lifetime? Thanks for sharing this and a Happy New Year to you too.

Penelope said...

Helen, the poem was published in a collection of all the sisters' poetry in 1846. They sold two copies!

She was only 30 when she dies, so whenever it was composed, it was a young woman's poem.