Fluctuations
Written: August 2nd. 1844.  First Published: 1846.

This poem was written at Scarborough during the fourth week of a five week period Anne spent at the resort with the Robinsons in the summer of 1844. Edward Chitham presents a very interesting study of this poem, where Anne appears to use meteorological symbols to represent a number of acquaintances with whom she develops friendships - possibly at Scarborough.

(N.B: The coloured text refers to the specific lines, presented in the same colour, in the poem below: the tiny arrows at the end of each coloured section will take you directly to the appropriate section of the poem, and the tiny arrows in the poem will return you here.)

There would seem little doubt the 'the sun' represents William Weightman - who had died two years earlier; but who does the moon represent? - someone who seems to have taken Weightman's place in Anne's affections.   The friendship, that appears to be another female, seems only casual at first, but then gradually develops. This friendship suddenly ends,   but is replaced by another, represented by a 'little star', this too soon vanishes,   and is replaced yet again by another - this time represented by a 'meteor', which also quickly fades.   The poem concludes where the initial friend - 'the moon' - re-appears.

As Edward Chitham points out: the poem is very tantalizing as it seems to represent Anne's friendships that, otherwise, we know nothing about. The friendships only last for a limited period - one re-appears at a later date. Considering the poem was written at Scarborough, it may indicate that these friends were people she met at the resort: possibly other visitors, or even locals. However, as there is no other evidence of these associates, it is unlikely that we will discover any more about them.

There are a few slight differences between the manuscript copy, and the version that appeared in Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell - mostly in punctuation: both versions are presented below.

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.103 & p.181; and 'A Life of Anne Brontë', p.112/113)


(Manuscript Version)

What though the sun had left my sky;
            To save me from despair
The blessed moon arose on high
            And shone serenely there.

I watched her with a tearful gaze
            Rise slowly o'er the hill;
While through the dim horizon's haze
            Her light gleamed faint and chill.

I thought such wan and lifeless beams
            Could ne'er my heart repay
For the bright sun's most transient gleams
            That cheered me through the day.

But as above that mist's control
            She rose and brighter shone
I felt her light upon my soul,
            But now -- that light is gone!

Thick vapours snatched her from my sight
            And I was darkling left,
All in the cold and gloomy night
            Of light and hope bereft.

Until methought a little star
            Shone forth with trembling ray
To cheer me with its light afar,
            But that too passed away.

Anon an earthly meteor blazed
            The gloomy darkness through.
I smiled yet trembled while I gazed,
            But that soon vanished too.

And darker, drearier fell the night
            Upon my spirit then;
But what is that faint struggling light --
            Is it the moon again?

Kind Heaven, increase that silvery gleam
            And bid these clouds depart;
And let her kind and holy beam
            Restore my fainting heart.


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

What though the sun had left my sky;
            To save me from despair
The blessed moon arose on high,
            And shone serenely there.

I watched her, with a tearful gaze,
            Rise slowly o'er the hill,
While through the dim horizon's haze
            Her light gleamed faint and chill.

I thought such wan and lifeless beams
            Could ne'er my heart repay,
For the bright sun's most transient gleams
            That cheered me through the day:

But as above that mist's control
            She rose, and brighter shone,
I felt her light upon my soul;
            But now -- that light is gone!

Thick vapours snatched her from my sight,
            And I was darkling left,
All in the cold and gloomy night,
            Of light and hope bereft:

Until, methought, a little star
            Shone forth with trembling ray,
To cheer me with its light afar --
            But that, too, passed away.

Anon, an earthly meteor blazed
            The gloomy darkness through;
I smiled, yet trembled while I gazed --
            But that soon vanished too!

And darker, drearier fell the night
            Upon my spirit then; --
But what is that faint struggling light?
            Is it the Moon again?

Kind Heaven! increase that silvery gleam,
            And bid these clouds depart,
And let her soft celestial beam
            Restore my fainting heart!

Acton


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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