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 hath 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.
~~ Emily Bronte, No Coward Soul Is Mine ~~
Ezra Pound once said that literature is news, that stays news. The great classic novels constantly morph into new shapes, a chimera of words that fit snugly and effortlessly into the preoccupations of the now, and reveal new layers of meaning and relevance for each generation of readers. The Brontes have had the knack over the last century and a half of singing songs we never tire of hearing: new interpretations of their novels relentlessly arrive with the regularity of a Swiss timepiece. Keeping them in the public eye; refreshing and reinventing their words, but never crushing under foot the beating heart which drives the genius of these remarkable women. The song of the soul remains, even when there is an attempt to shred words and meaning by sundry film adaptions, because the novels have stood the test of time, by bending time to appeal to the passing generations.
Charlotte Bronte described her sister Emily as a “solitude loving raven, no gentle dove”. She was an unconventional Victorian young lady; quick of mind, and equally sharp of tongue. Like all of the girls, she had written stories and poems all her life, and one can easily see that her greatest “epic” poem is Wuthering Heights, which is the most lyrical, fluid, elemental and poetic of all novels. Her poetry is wonderfully free of Victorian sentimentality, blandness and religiosity – as is her one surviving novel. Dying at the tender age of thirty, she has left us with an unfinished legacy of influence, but enough to suggest that she could have progressed to become the literary power house of the Victorian age.
Emily was deeply religious, but it was not of the kind that appeals to the heart strings and brings tears of sentiment to the eyes: she is enthused with a super-Protestant “spirit within”: a very Quaker like variety, where the Light of the deity lives within and is not to be found in the words of feeble religious creeds. By allowing God into her heart and soul, He provides her with the tender warmth of His love and “Undying Life” as shown in line eight.
It may be an urban myth, but apparently, Emily Dickinson, who was noted for her clear cut directness of language, solitude and independence, and recognizing a kindred spirit when she saw one, asked for this poem to be read at her funeral. A very pleasing thought if ever there was one. Like all of Emily`s works, it`s bold, creative, dynamic and unexpected in the massing of verbs and use of syntax. Emily was under schooled – which is a million miles from saying that she was uneducated – because she was highly intelligent and literate; but this very lack of a formal education unshackled her mind by calling on a veritable smorgasbord of the imagination. It can be terrifyingly exhilarating to ride along with Emily Bronte on her roller coaster of the emotions.