A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Letter." by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)

First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 86-89.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 86]

THE LETTER.

WHAT is she writing ? Watch her now,
  How fast her fingers move !
How eagerly her youthful brow
  Is bent in thought above !
Her long curls, drooping, shade the light,
  She puts them quick aside,
Nor knows, that band of crystals bright,
  Her hasty touch untied.
It slips adown her silken dress,
  Falls glittering at her feet;
Unmarked it falls, for she no less
  Pursues her labour sweet.

The very loveliest hour that shines,
  Is in that deep blue sky;
The golden sun of June declines,
  It has not caught her eye.
The cheerful lawn, and unclosed gate,
  The white road, far away,
In vain for her light footsteps wait,
  She comes not forth to-day.
There is an open door of glass
  Close by that lady's chair,
From thence, to slopes of mossy grass,
  Descends a marble stair.

[Page 87]

Tall plants of bright and spicy bloom
  Around the threshold grow;
Their leaves and blossoms shade the room,
  From that sun's deepening glow.
Why does she not a moment glance
  Between the clustering flowers,
And mark in heaven the radiant dance
  Of evening's rosy hours ?
O look again ! Still fixed her eye,
  Unsmiling, earnest, still,
And fast her pen and fingers fly,
  Urged by her eager will.

Her soul is in th' absorbing task;
  To whom, then, doth she write ?
Nay, watch her still more closely, ask
  Her own eyes' serious light;
Where do they turn, as now her pen
  Hangs o'er th' unfinished line ?
Whence fell the tearful gleam that then
  Did in their dark spheres shine ?
The summer-parlour looks so dark,
  When from that sky you turn,
And from th' expanse of that green park,
  You scarce may aught discern.

Yet o'er the piles of porcelain rare,
  O'er flower-stand, couch, and vase,
Sloped, as if leaning on the air,
  One picture meets the gaze.

[Page 88]

'Tis there she turns; you may not see
  Distinct, what form defines
The clouded mass of mystery
  Yon broad gold frame confines.
But look again; inured to shade
  Your eyes now faintly trace
A stalwart form, a massive head,
  A firm, determined face.

Black Spanish locks, a sunburnt cheek,
  A brow high, broad, and white,
Where every furrow seems to speak
  Of mind and moral might.
Is that her god ? I cannot tell;
  Her eye a moment met
Th' impending picture, then it fell
  Darkened and dimmed and wet.
A moment more, her task is done,
  And sealed the letter lies;
And now, towards the setting sun
  She turns her tearful eyes.

Those tears flow over, wonder not,
  For by the inscription, see
In what a strange and distant spot
  Her heart of hearts must be !
Three seas and many a league of land
  That letter must pass o'er,
E'er read by him to whose loved hand
  'Tis sent from England's shore.

[Page 89]

Remote colonial wilds detain
  Her husband, loved though stern;
She, 'mid that smiling English scene,
  Weeps for his wished return.

CURRER.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom