No Coward Soul Is Mine

“I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me , like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.”

Virginia Woolf wrote in “The Common Reader” that Wuthering Heights is a more difficult book to understand than Jane Eyre, because Emily was a greater poet than Charlotte. There was no “I” in Wuthering Heights, because Emily was looking beyond corporeal emotions into something more metaphysical and elemental; feelings such as love held an edgier, ethereal meaning for this most fiercely solitary and private soul.

While Emily was still alive, her sister Charlotte discovered a stash of her poems and verse fragments, and insisted that they should be published; but like a bird of prey, protective of her young hatchlings, Emily rejected the idea in no uncertain terms. However, the Bronte household was in urgent need of funds, and so Emily uncharacteristically relented, and the young children of her imagination were allowed to take flight.

The poems of course, are a glimpse into an astonishingly imaginative intellect; her one novel, Wuthering Heights, reads more like an epic poem than a straight forward work of prose. Having died young at the age of thirty, she has left us with a reputation unblemished by failure to maintain the creative fire in her turbulent soul, unlike other great writers. 

No Coward Soul Is Mine, is a fine example of the biblical authority of style, and breadth of her matchless imagination. The Quaker like “spirit within” fills the vision; God inhabits the poet, and is not to be found in the feeble, hand-me-down words of creed and parson. For her, God is an equal, internal partner through life, who`s company is to be enjoyed and not feared.

Apparently, Emily Dickinson asked for this poem to be read at her own funeral. It`s a nice thought; both shared much in common stylistically, the love of quiet, solitude and independence, coupled with fervent, but intimate religious metres. 

Someone like Emily Bronte, who lacked mothering, schooling and access to the wider world, self nurturance was the only option for a child of vivid imagination who wished to grow beyond, and project herself. 

Her sister Charlotte, described Emily as ” a solitude-loving raven, no gentle dove.” This was not the Victorian ideal of submissive, supportive womanhood; she neither thought of herself as inferior, nor did it come across in any of her writings. When it became known that the author of the morally scandalous Wuthering Heights was a woman, priggish Victorian manhood was outraged. I`m sure it would not have unsettled Emily to any great extent. This raven had very sharp claws. 

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