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."
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 Eden? "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." John