A Celebration of Women Writers

"To Cowper." by Anne Brontë (1820-1849)

First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 92-94.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


SWEET are thy strains, celestial Bard;
  And oft, in childhood's years,
I've read them o'er and o'er again,
  With floods of silent tears.

The language of my inmost heart,
  I traced in every line;
My sins, my sorrows, hopes, and fears,
  Were thereand only mine.

All for myself the sigh would swell,
  The tear of auguish start;

[Page 93]

I little knew what wilder woe
  Had filled the Poet's heart.

I did not know the nights of gloom,
  The days of misery;
The long, long years of dark despair,
  That crushed and tortured thee.

But they are gone; from earth at length
  Thy gentle soul is pass'd,
And in the bosom of its God
  Has found its home at last.

It must be so, if God is love,
  And answers fervent prayer;
Then surely thou shalt dwell on high,
  And I may meet thee there.

Is he the source of every good,
  The spring of purity?
Then in thine hours of deepest woe,
  Thy God was still with thee.

How else, when every hope was fled,
  Couldst thou so fondly cling
To holy things and holy men?
  And how so sweetly sing,

Of things that God alone could teach?
  And whence that purity,

[Page 94]

That hatred of all sinful ways
  That gentle charity?

Are these the symptoms of a heart
  Of heavenly grace bereft:
For ever banished from its God,
  To Satan's fury left?

Yet, should thy darkest fears be true,
  If Heaven be so severe,
That such a soul as thine is lost,
  Oh! how shall I appear?



Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


The date on the manuscript of this poem indicates that it was written November 10th, 1842. Anne was then at home, having come to attend the funeral of her aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, on November 2nd. This version of the poem is the result of major alterations to an earlier draft, which was written in a different metre. The published version is almost identical to the revised MS, differing in some details of punctuation and formatting, and in line 17 using /now at length/ from the earlier MS draft, rather than /now from earth/ as in the revised MS.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom