Last Things: Emily Brontë's Poems

By Janet Gezari | Go to book overview

4

Outcomes and Endings

That Emily Brontë's career as a poet is framed by poems looking ahead to outcomes that are dazzling and poems looking back on outcomes that are unmitigatedly bleak sketches a progress that we can understand in various ways, psychologically in relation to Brontë's life, dramatically in relation to an extended Gondal narrative, or mythically in relation to the topoi of romance and irony. The wild child and murderous foster parent of Brontë's last completed poem are the spiritual opposites of the characters who figure in her three earliest poems, a visionary, a happy child, and a loving mother. My aim in this chapter is not to establish some narrative progress for Brontë's poems that this account of poems written at the inception and close of her career as a poet may suggest. The picture that her poems taken all together provide is more complicated and more varied. What they show is that Gondal never stopped providing occasions for powerful poems and never was 'a self-contained alternative to the actual world'.1 It was a way to write about that world. As a Gondal poet, Brontë began by thinking about individual lives and intimate relations and ended by thinking about social conflict and the nature of evil.

Brontë composed the earliest poems that have survived in 1836, the year before Victoria became Queen2 (Figure 3). They announce beginnings and contemplate outcomes. 'Cold clear and blue the morning heaven,' probably composed a few weeks before her eighteenth birthday, describes a bright winter Gondal scene, with water mirroring sky:

Cold clear and blue the morning heaven
Expands its arch on high
Cold clear and blue Lake Werna's water
Reflects that winter's sky
The moon has set but Venus shines
A silent silvery star

-59-

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Last Things: Emily Brontë's Poems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Figures x
  • A Note on Texts xi
  • 1: And First 1
  • 2: Last Things 8
  • 3: Fathoming 'Remembrance' 41
  • 4: Outcomes and Endings 59
  • 5: Fragments 79
  • 6: The First Last Thing 106
  • 7: Posthumous Brontë 126
  • Notes 151
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 179
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