Verses by Lady Geralda
Written:  December 1836.  First Published:  1934

Certainly not one of Anne's better compositions, but this is her earliest extant poem. Written when she was on her Christmas holidays from Roe Head School at the age of sixteen. The title alone makes it clear that it is one of her Gondal creations. Despite the highly fictional nature of Gondal; these poems still contain an auto-biographical element. Edward Chitham points out that we may never fully understand the meaning of this particular poem as the background is missing. It becomes a problem distinguishing Anne's own feelings from those of her Gondal character: it is clear Lady Geralda is relating the hopelessness of her home and declaring her desire to leave it. In verse 19 she laments that her father is long dead, her mother died more recently, and her brother is far away: this situation in no way relates to Anne's life; but verse 21:

But the world's before me now,
     Why should I despair?
I will not spend my days in vain,
     I will not linger here!

may well have been inspired by her own, first, ventures out into the world - namely Roe Head School, and reflect her own feelings.106

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.49 & p.166)

Why, when I hear the stormy breath
     Of the wild winter wind
Rushing o'er the mountain heath,
     Does sadness fill my mind?

For long ago I loved to lie
     Upon the pathless moor,
To hear the wild wind rushing by
     With never ceasing roar;

Its sound was music then to me;
     Its wild and lofty voice
Made by heart beat exultingly
     And my whole soul rejoice.

But now, how different is the sound?
     It takes another tone,
And howls along the barren ground
     With melancholy moan.

Why does the warm light of the sun
     No longer cheer my eyes?
And why is all the beauty gone
     From rosy morning skies?

Beneath this lone and dreary hill
     There is a lovely vale;
The purling of a crystal rill,
     The sighing of the gale,

The sweet voice of the singing bird,
     The wind among the trees,
Are ever in that valley heard;
     While every passing breeze

Is loaded with the pleasant scent
     Of wild and lovely flowers.
To yonder vales I often went
     To pass my evening hours.

Last evening when I wandered there
     To soothe my weary heart,
Why did the unexpected tear
     From my sad eyelid start?

Why did the trees, the buds, the stream
     Sing forth so joylessly?
And why did all the valley seem
     So sadly changed to me?

I plucked a primrose young and pale
     That grew beneath a tree
And then I hastened from the vale
     Silent and thoughtfully.

Soon I was near my lofty home,
     But when I cast my eye
Upon that flower so fair and lone
     Why did I heave a sigh?

I thought of taking it again
     To the valley where it grew.
But soon I spurned that thought as vain
     And weak and childish too.

And then I cast that flower away
     To die and wither there;
But when I found it dead today
     Why did I shed a tear?

O why are things so changed to me?
     What gave me joy before
Now fills my heart with misery,
     And nature smiles no more.

And why are all the beauties gone
     From this my native hill?
Alas! my heart is changed alone:
     Nature is constant still.

For when the heart is free from care,
     Whatever meets the eye  
Is bright, and every sound we hear
     Is full of melody.

The sweetest strain, the wildest wind,
     The murmur of a stream,
To the sad and weary mind
     Like doleful death knells seem.

Father! thou hast long been dead,
     Mother! thou art gone,
Brother! thou art far away,
     And I am left alone.

Long before my mother died
     I was sad and lone,
And when she departed too
     Every joy was flown.

But the world's before me now,
     Why should I despair?
I will not spend my days in vain,
     I will not linger here!  

There is still a cherished hope
     To cheer me on my way;
It is burning in my heart
     With a feeble ray.

I will cheer the feeble spark
     And raise it to a flame;
And it shall light me through the world,
     And lead me on to fame.

I leave thee then, my childhood's home,
     For all thy joys are gone;
I leave thee through the world to roam
     In search of fair renown,

From such a hopeless home to part
     Is happiness to me,
For nought can charm my weary heart
     Except activity.

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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