Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.” —from A Christmas Carol, Christina Rossetti
But in between the neighbour who recalls her
coming in from a walk on the moors
with her face “lit up by a divine light”
and the sister who tells us
Emily never made a friend in her life,
is a space where the little raw soul
It goes skimming the deep keel like a storm petrel,
out of sight.
The little raw soul was caught by no one.
She didn’t have friends, children, sex, religion, marriage, success, a salary
or a fear of death. She worked
in total six months of her life (at a school in Halifax)
and died on the sofa at home at 2 P.M. on a winter afternoon
in her thirty-first year…
“Emily is in the parlour brushing the carpet,”
records Charlotte in 1828.
Unsociable even at home
and unable to meet the eyes of strangers when she ventured out,
Emily made her awkward way
across days and years whose bareness appalls her biographers.
This sad stunted life, says one.
Uninteresting, unremarkable, wracked by disappointment
and despair, says another.
She lives on a moor in the north.
She lives alone.
Spring opens like a blade there.
I travel all day on trains and bring a lot of books—
some for my mother, some for me
including The Collected Works Of Emily Brontë.
This is my favourite author.
Also my main fear, which I mean to confront.
Whenever I visit my mother
I feel I am turning into Emily Brontë,
my lonely life around me like a moor,
my ungainly body stumping over the mud flats with a look of transformation
that dies when I come in the kitchen door.
What meat is it, Emily, we need?
I think I was enchanted
When first a sombre Girl—
I read that Foreign Lady—
The Dark—felt beautiful—
And whether it was noon at night—
Or only Heaven—at Noon—
For very Lunacy of Light
I had not power to tell—
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields—
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!” —2, Emily Dickinson
The day is done, the winter sun
Is setting in its sullen sky;
And drear the course that has been run,
And dim the hearts that slowly die.
No star will light my coming night;
No morn of hope for me will shine;
I mourn not heaven would blast my sight,
And I ne’er longed for joys divine.
Through life’s hard task I did not ask
Celestial aid, celestial cheer;
I saw my fate without its mask,
And met it too without a tear.
The grief that pressed my aching breast
Was heavier far than earth can be;
And who would dread eternal rest
When labour’s hour was agony?
Dark falls the fear of this despair
On spirits born of happiness;
But I was bred the mate of care,
The foster-child of sore distress.
No sighs for me, no sympathy,
No wish to keep my soul below;
The heart is dead in infancy,
Unwept-for let the body go.