Despondency
Written: December 20th. 1841.  First Published: 1850.

Another 'pillar of witness' poem Anne wrote shortly after she had returned home from Thorp Green for her Christmas holidays in 1841. It clearly expresses her feelings of depression, which is unusual considering she was now back at home with her family: possibly her return had not given her the lift she was expecting - the cause of which can only be speculative. Possibly William Weightman was away for the period - there is no evidence one way or the other concerning his whereabouts at this time.110

The poem seems to indicate that the religious worries she experienced in 1837, resulting in her requesting the visitation of the Reverend James La Trobe, were returning. She was particularly worried about her 'sins', and the fact that she was feeling little enthusiasm to express any earnest repentance. 'Evangelical Christianity encouraged the believer to feel love for God, and taught that this would be as a result of genuine repentance'; and it was by these keen principles, preached by Wesley and others, that Anne had always judged herself.111  Her sins were probably nothing more than a lack of enthusiasm to perform her work for the Robinsons, and her general feelings of discontent with the place. They may also have included feelings of jealousy over the fact that Charlotte had chosen Emily to accompany her to the school in Brussels; and this may also have contributed to Anne's depression, making her feel more tied with 'iron chains' at Thorp Green. Charlotte and Emily would soon be far away in Belgium, and all these points could account for Anne not feeling any brighter on her return home for the Christmas holidays.

Edward Chitham suggests that only the lack of drive in this poem prevents it from being a good congregational hymn, although Anne probably did intended it as a hymn - copying "it into her 'Hymns' MS'."  The word 'wretch', found at the end of the poem, occurred frequently in Wesleyan hymns, though Charlotte removed this word in her 1850 edited version of the poem.

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.80 & p.173)


I have gone backward in the work,
       The labour has not sped,
Drowsy and dark my spirit lies,
       Heavy and dull as lead.

How can I rouse my sinking soul
       From such a lethargy?
How can I break these iron chains,
       And set my spirit free?

There have been times when I have mourned,
       In anguish o'er the past;
And raised my suppliant hands on high,
       While tears fell thick and fast,

And prayed to have my sins forgiven
       With such a fervent zeal,
An earnest grief --- a strong desire
       That now I cannot feel!

And vowed to trample on my sins,
       And called on Heaven to aid
My spirit in her firm resolves
       And hear the vows I made.

And I have felt so full of love,
       So strong in spirit then,
As if my heart would never cool
       Or wander back again.

And yet, alas! how many times
       My feet have gone astray,
How oft have I forgot my God,
       How greatly fallen away!

My sins increase, my love grows cold,
       And Hope within me dies,
And Faith itself is wavering now,
       O how shall I arise!

I cannot weep but I can pray,
       Then let me not despair;
Lord Jesus, save me lest I die,
       And hear a wretch's prayer.


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

  'Lines Written at Thorp Green' 'Despondency' 'In Memory of a Happy Day in Feb. . '   
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