by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 115-117.
NOT in scorn do I reprove thee,
Not in pride thy vows I waive,
But, believe, I could not love thee,
Wert thou prince, and I a slave.
These, then, are thine oaths of passion ?
This, thy tenderness for me ?
Judged, even, by thine own confession,
Thou art steeped in perfidy.
Having vanquished, thou wouldst leave me !
Thus I read thee long ago;
Therefore, dared I not deceive thee,
Even with friendship's gentle show.
Therefore, with impassive coldness
Have I ever met thy gaze;
Though, full oft, with daring boldness,
Thou thine eyes to mine didst raise.
Why that smile ? Thou now art deeming
This my coldness all untrue,–
But a mask of frozen seeming,
Hiding secret fires from view.
Touch my hand, thou self-deceiver,
Nay–be calm, for I am so:
Does it burn ? Does my lip quiver ?
Has mine eye a troubled glow ?
Canst thou call a moment's colour
To my forehead–to my cheek ?
Canst thou tinge their tranquil pallor
With one flattering, feverish streak?
Am I marble ? What ! no woman
Could so calm before thee stand ?
Nothing living, sentient, human,
Could so coldly take thy hand ?
Yes–a sister might, a mother:
My good-will is sisterly:
Dream not, then, I strive to smother
Fires that inly burn for thee.
Rave not, rage not, wrath is fruitless,
Fury cannot change my mind;
I but deem the feeling rootless
Which so whirls in passion's wind.
Can I love ? Oh, deeply–truly–
Warmly–fondly–but not thee;
And my love is answered duly,
With an equal energy.
Wouldst thou see thy rival ? Hasten,
Draw that curtain soft aside,
Look where yon thick branches chasten
Noon, with shades of eventide.
In that glade, where foliage blending
Forms a green arch overhead,
Sits thy rival thoughtful bending
O'er a stand with papers spread–
Motionless, his fingers plying
That untired, unresting pen;
Time and tide unnoticed flying,
There he sits–the first of men !
Man of conscience–man of reason;
Stern, perchance, but ever just;
Foe to falsehood, wrong, and treason,
Honour's shield, and virtue's trust !
Worker, thinker, firm defender
Of Heaven's truth–man's liberty;
Soul of iron–proof to slander,
Rock where founders tyranny.
Fame he seeks not–but full surely
She will seek him, in his home;
This I know, and wait securely
For the atoning hour to come.
To that man my faith is given,
Therefore, soldier, cease to sue;
While God reigns in earth and heaven,
I to him will still be true !