Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bronte - Poetry

The next poem in the book is from Emily Bronte.  I know her from 'Wuthering Heights', a book that I've picked up a few times and never gotten more than a couple of pages in.  This poem is called 'Often Rebuked, Yet Always back Returning'.

Often rebuked, yet always back returning
To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
For idle dreams of things which cannot be:

Today I will seek not the shadowy region;
Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear,
And visions rising, legion after legion,
Bring the unreal world too strangely near.

I'll walk but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading-
It vexes me to choose another guide-
Where the gray flocks in ferny glens are feeding,
Where the wild wind blows on the mountainside.

What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can center both the words of Heaven and Hell.

I'm not sure how well I understand this.  Let me see if I can write my way through it.  The title and first line says that though she is rebuked, she'll keep returning to the 'feelings that were born with me'.  Is she then saying that she is turning away from the 'busy chase of wealth and learning'?  I think so.  Instead she chooses 'idle dreams of things which cannot be'.
But the second stanza says that she 'will not seek the shadowy region' because it will 'Bring the unreal world too strangely near'.  The shadowy region doesn't seem to be that of wealth and learning.  Or if it is, I'm not catching the allusion.
I get the part about walking where her nature leads her.  That's especially important remembering that this was written in the early 19th century.  (And I'm just noticing sadly that our poor poet only lived thirty years.  Sad, and the world is poorer because of it.)  She chooses the mountain side, that reveals glory and grief.  That glory and grief are both like heaven and hell.
I'm not sure I understand it, but I like it.

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