A Celebration of Women Writers

"A Fragment." by Anne Brontë (1820-1849)

Original manuscript version.
Later edited and published as "Self-Congratulation" in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. pp. 155-157.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


written January 1st 1840

'Maiden, thou wert thoughtless once
  Of beauty or of grace,
Simple and homely in attire
  Careless of form and face.
Then whence this change, and why so oft
  Dost smooth thy hazel hair?
And wherefore deck thy youthful form
  With such unwearied care?

'Tell usand cease to tire our ears
  With yonder hackneyed strain
Why wilt thou play those simple tunes
  So often o'er again?'
'Nay, gentle friends, I can but say
  That childhood's thoughts are gone.
Each year its own new feelings brings
  And years move swiftly on,

"And for these little simple airs,
  I love to play them o'er
So much I dare not promise now
  To play them never more.'
I answered and it was enough;
  They turned them to depart;
They could not read my secret thoughts
  Nor see my throbbing heart.

I've noticed many a youthful form
  Upon whose changeful face
The inmost workings of the soul
  The gazer's eye might trace.
The speaking eye, the changing lip,
  The ready blushing cheek,
The smiling or beclouded brow
  Their different feelings speak.

But, thank God! you might gaze on mine
  For hours and never know
The secret changes of my soul
  From joy to bitter woe.
Last night, as we sat round the fire
  Conversing merrily,
We heard without approaching steps
  Of one well known to me.

There was no trembling in my voice,
  No blush upon my cheek,
No lustrous sparkle in my eyes,
  Of hope or joy to speak;
But O my spirit burned within,
  My heart beat thick and fast.
He came not nighhe went away
  And then my joy was past.

And yet my comrades marked it not,
  My voice was still the same;
They saw me smile, and o'er my face
  No signs of sadness came;
They little knew my hidden thoughts
  And they will never know
The anguish of my drooping heart,
  The bitter aching woe!

Olivia Vernon.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


See also the 1846 version revised by Anne for publication in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom