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The Night Wind -- Emily Bronte

Guest poem sent in by John Barr
(Poem #1658) The Night Wind
 In summer's mellow midnight
 A cloudless moon shone through
 Our open parlour window
 And rosetrees wet with dew -

 I sat in silent musing -
 The soft wind waved my hair;
 It told me Heaven was glorious
 And sleeping Earth was fair -

 I needed not its breathing
 To bring such thoughts to me,
 But still it whispered lowly
 "How dark the woods will be! -

 "The thick leaves in my murmur
 Are rustling like a dream,
 And all their myriad voices
 Instinct with spirit seem."

 I said "Go, gentle singer
 Thy wooing voice is kind
 But do not think its music
 Has power to reach my mind -

 "Play with the scented flower,
 The young tree's supple bough -
 And leave my human feelings
 In their own course to flow."

 The Wanderer would not leave me;
 Its kiss grew warmer still -
 "O come", it sighed so sweetly,
 "I'll win thee 'gainst thy will."

 "Have we not been from childhood friends?
 Have I not loved thee long?
 As long as though hast loved the night
 Whose silence wakes my song.

 "And when thy heart is resting
 Beneath the churchyard stone
 I shall have time for mourning
 And thou for being alone."
-- Emily Bronte
I love the poetry of Emily Bronte. Her best known works ("No Coward Soul is
Mine" etc) are frequently quoted, yet some of her other poetry is equally
powerful, despite its relative obscurity.

"The Night Wind" is such a poem. This poem is rich in allusion to the
semi-supernatural, or perhaps more accurately natural, world evoked in much
of her work. Every time I read this poem, the hairs on the back of my neck
rise. Something dark drifts through the language of this poem like tendrils
of smoke.

Emily Bronte frequently used the 'life-giving wind' as a metaphor for the
being she communed with on a daily basis, the 'soul' of nature. A deity
perhaps, but one far removed from Christian theology, despite alternative
interpretations of 'No Coward Soul..' and other poems. Emily's deity was an
elemental force. Her Heaven was an eternity 'without identity' at one with
this natural spirit.

In this poem, as in many others, Emily Bronte is visited by a spiritual
manifestation of nature. After setting the scene briefly and efficiently: an
open window, midnight, a cloudless moon (another recurring image in her
poetry, cf. 'How Clear she Shines'), we are introduced directly to the
quasi-mystical concept of the night wind entering through the open window
and addressing her in human terms. This is remarkable. We are invited to
share this moment with the writer, not in the sense that 'a very strange
thing happened..', but that it is perfectly natural, right and ordinary for
the night wind to interact and communicate in this way. Perhaps it is the
paradox between Emily Bronte's relaxed description and the mystical
significance of this encounter that first sets alarm bells ringing.

It is impossible not to see parallels between the persuasive language of the
night wind and the allegorical serpent of Genesis, "O come', it sighed so
sweetly/I'll win thee 'gainst thy will...", as the zephyr spirit attempts to
persuade the writer to go out into the night with him. As her denial becomes
stronger, the wind's language becomes more persuasive, more beguiling. "Have
we not been from childhood friends/Have I not loved thee long.". There is a
darkness here, which attracts us, yet scares us, like the fascination of the
Vampire, understood and interpreted so well by Bram Stoker and others. We
want to go with the spirits of the night. Is the night wind the serpent of

"How dark the woods will be..." The truth is, that as human beings, we want
to walk with the spirits, we want to lift the veil and see the other side.
Emily Bronte's whole life was a personal quest for this enlightenment: In
this poem she shares with us some of this odyssey.

Every time I read this poem, I feel an exhilaration, an apprehension. And
what a superb finale - the mortal and the immortal embrace in a climax of
icy sadness!

"And when thy heart is resting Beneath the churchyard stone, I shall have
time for mourning And thou for being alone."


35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Anonymous said...

In summer's mellow midnight
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window
And rosetrees wet with dew -
It is the best stanza, when I read it I felt some feeling and I would like to read it again.

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