To Cowper
Written: November 10th. 1842.  First Published: 1846.

This poem was written in Haworth at the time Anne had returned home from Thorp Green for the funeral of Aunt Branwell. Below (first copy) is presented a revision of the original manuscript - this probably being produced sometime before 1844. The degree of revision was considerable, and to such an extent that it changed the metre of the poem. 'Both measures were used equally by Cowper himself.' The Brontës showed a strong interest in Cowper, and Mr. Brontë owned a copy of his poems.

The additional alterations made for the poem's inclusion in Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell were mostly in punctuation and capitalisation: this version is also presented - beneath the revised manuscript copy, below.

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.84 & p.174)


Revised Manuscript Version

Sweet are thy strains, Celestial Bard;
    And oft in childhood's years,
I've read them o'er and o'er again
    With floods of silent tears.

The language of my inmost heart
    I traced in every line --
My sins, my sorrows, hopes and fears,
    Were there, and only mine.

All for myself the sigh would swell,
    The tear of anguish start;
I little knew what wilder woe
    Had filled the Poet's heart.

I did not know the nights of gloom,
    The days of misery,
The long long years of dark despair
    That crushed and tortured thee.

But they are gone, and now from earth
    Thy gentle soul is passed.
And in the bosom of its God
    Has found its Home at last.

It must be so if God is love
    And answers fervent prayer;
Then surely thou shalt dwell on high,
    And I may meet thee there.

Is He the source of every good,
    The spring of purity?
Then in thine hours of deepest woe
   Thy God was still with thee.

How else when every hope was fled
    Couldst thou so fondly cling
To holy things and holy men
    And how so sweetly sing --

Of things that God alone could teach?
    And whence that purity;
That hatred of all sinful ways,
    That gentle charity?

Are these the symptoms of a heart
    Of heavenly grace bereft,
For ever banished from its God,
    To Satan's fury left?

Yet should thy darkest fears be true,
    If Heaven be so severe
That such a soul as thine is lost,
    Oh! how shall I appear?


(The 'Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell' Version)

Sweet are thy strains, celestial Bard;
    And oft, in childhood's years,
I've read them o'er and o'er again,
    With floods of silent tears.

The language of my inmost heart,
    I traced in every line;
My sins, my sorrows, hopes, and fears,
    Were there -- and only mine.

All for myself the sigh would swell,
    The tear of anguish start;
I little knew what wilder woe
    Had filled the Poet's heart.

I did not know the nights of gloom,
    The days of misery;
The long, long years of dark despair,
    That crushed and tortured thee.

But, they are gone; from earth at length
    Thy gentle soul is pass'd,
And in the bosom of its God
    Has found its home at last.

It must be so, if God is love,
    And answers fervent prayer;
Then surely thou shalt dwell on high,
    And I may meet thee there.

Is he the source of every good,
    The spring of purity?
Then in thine hours of deepest woe,
   Thy God was still with thee.

How else, when every hope was fled,
    Couldst thou so fondly cling
To holy things and holy men?
    And how so sweetly sing,

Of things that God alone could teach?
    And whence that purity,
That hatred of all sinful ways --
    That gentle charity?

Are these the symptoms of a heart
    Of heavenly grace bereft:
For ever banished from its God,
    To Satan's fury left?

Yet, should thy darkest fears be true,
    If Heaven be so severe,
That such a soul as thine is lost, --
    Oh! how shall I appear?

Acton


Copyright © 2000 Michael Armitage

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