" Apostasy." by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 145-148.
THIS last denial of my faith,
Thou, solemn Priest, hast heard;
And, though upon my bed of death,
I call not back a word.
Point not to thy Madonna, Priest,–
Thy sightless saint of stone;
She cannot, from this burning breast,
Wring one repentant moan.
[Page 146]Thou say'st, that when a sinless child,
'Twas not a grey, bare head, like thine,
Bent o'er me, when I said,
" That land and God and Faith are mine,
For which thy fathers bled."
I see thee not, my eyes are dim;
But, well I hear thee say,
" O daughter, cease to think of him
Who led thy soul astray.
Between you lies both space and time;
Let leagues and years prevail
To turn thee from the path of crime,
Back to the Church's pale."
And, did I need that thou shouldst tell
What mighty barriers rise
To part me from that dungeon-cell,
Where my loved Walter lies ?
And, did I need that thou shouldst taunt
My dying hour at last,
By bidding this worn spirit pant
No more for what is past ?
[Page 147]Priest–must I cease to think of him ?
I said before, I saw not thee,
Because, an hour agone,
Over my eye-balls, heavily,
The lids fell down like stone.
But still my spirit's inward sight
Beholds his image beam
As fixed, as clear, as burning bright,
As some red planet's gleam.
Talk not of thy Last Sacrament,
Tell not thy beads for me;
Both rite and prayer are vainly spent,
As dews upon the sea.
Speak not one word of Heaven above,
Rave not of Hell's alarms;
Give me but back my Walter's love,
Restore me to his arms !
Then will the bliss of Heaven be won;
Then will Hell shrink away,
As I have seen night's terrors shun
The conquering steps of day.
'Tis my religion thus to love,
My creed thus fixed to be;
Not Death shall shake, nor Priestcraft break
My rock-like constancy !
[Page 148]Now go; for at the door there waits
I fain would rest a little while:
Where can I find a stay,
Till dawn upon the hills shall smile,
And show some trodden way ?
" I come ! I come !" in haste she said,
" 'Twas Walter's voice I heard !"
Then up she sprang–but fell back, dead,
His name her latest word.