A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Philosopher." by Emily Jane Brontë (1818-1848)

First Publication: Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 23-25.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


"ENOUGH of thought, philosopher!
  Too long hast thou been dreaming
Unlightened, in this chamber drear,
  While summer's sun is beaming!
Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain
Concludes thy musings once again?

[Page 24]

  "Oh, for the time when I shall sleep
  Without identity,
  And never care how rain may steep,
  Or snow may cover me!
  No promised heaven, these wild desires,
  Could all, or half fulfil;
  No threathened hell, with quenchless fires,
  Subdue this quenchless will!"

"So said I, and still say the same;
  Still, to my death, will say
Three gods, within this little frame,
  Are warring night and day;
Heaven could not hold them all, and yet
  They all are held in me;
And must be mine till I forget
  My present entity!
Oh, for the time, when in my breast
  Their struggles will be o'er!
Oh, for the day, when I shall rest,
  And never suffer more! "

"I saw a spirit, standing, man,
  Where thou dost standan hour ago,
And round his feet three rivers ran,
  Of equal depth, and equal flow
"A golden streamand one like blood;
  And one like sapphire, seemed to be;
But, where they joined their triple flood
  It tumbled in an inky sea.

[Page 25]

The spirit sent his dazzling gaze
  Down through that ocean's gloomy night
Then, kindling all, with sudden blaze,
  The glad deep sparkled wide and bright
White as the sun, far, far more fair
  Than its divided sources were! "

"And even for that spirit, seer,
  I've watched and sought my life-time long;
Sought him in heaven, hell, earth and air
  An endless search, and always wrong!
Had I but seen his glorious eye
  Once light the clouds that wilder me,
I ne'er had raised this coward cry
  To cease to think and cease to be;
I ne'er had called oblivion blest,
  Nor, stretching eager hands to death,
Implored to change for senseless rest
  This sentient soul, this living breath
Oh, let me diethat power and will
  Their cruel strife may close;
And conquered good, and conquering ill
  Be lost in one repose! "


[Page 26]

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


This published version of this poem differs considerably from the manuscript in its capitalization, punctuation, and layout. The manuscript version, which is untitled, says "written Feb. 3, 1845". The manuscript shows a number of changes in wording, and the last eight lines of the poem appear to have been added to the manuscript in substitution for a verse that is cancelled out:

  O for the lid that cannot weep,
  The Breast that needs no breath
  The tomb that brings eternal sleep
  For Life's Deliverer, Death!

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom