"A Fragment." by Anne Brontë (1820-1849)
Original manuscript version.
Later edited and published as "Self-Congratulation" in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 155-157.
'Maiden, thou wert thoughtless once
Of beauty or of grace,
Simple and homely in attire
Careless of form and face.
Then whence this change, and why so oft
Dost smooth thy hazel hair?
And wherefore deck thy youthful form
With such unwearied care?
'Tell us–and cease to tire our ears
With yonder hackneyed strain–
Why wilt thou play those simple tunes
So often o'er again?'
'Nay, gentle friends, I can but say
That childhood's thoughts are gone.
Each year its own new feelings brings
And years move swiftly on,
"And for these little simple airs,
I love to play them o'er–
So much I dare not promise now
To play them never more.'
I answered and it was enough;
They turned them to depart;
They could not read my secret thoughts
Nor see my throbbing heart.
I've noticed many a youthful form
Upon whose changeful face
The inmost workings of the soul
The gazer's eye might trace.
The speaking eye, the changing lip,
The ready blushing cheek,
The smiling or beclouded brow
Their different feelings speak.
But, thank God! you might gaze on mine
For hours and never know
The secret changes of my soul
From joy to bitter woe.
Last night, as we sat round the fire
We heard without approaching steps
Of one well known to me.
There was no trembling in my voice,
No blush upon my cheek,
No lustrous sparkle in my eyes,
Of hope or joy to speak;
But O my spirit burned within,
My heart beat thick and fast.
He came not nigh–he went away
And then my joy was past.
And yet my comrades marked it not,
My voice was still the same;
They saw me smile, and o'er my face–
No signs of sadness came;
They little knew my hidden thoughts
And they will never know
The anguish of my drooping heart,
The bitter aching woe!
See also the 1846 version revised by Anne for publication in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell