If This Be All
Written: May 20th. 1845.  First Published: 1846.

(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.)

In manuscript form, this poem is untitled: it was given the title 'If This Be All' for publication in Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell: there are a few minor differences between the two - both are presented below (the manuscript copy is first). The poem was written several weeks before Anne finally gave up her post at Thorp Green, and expresses her total despair at all the goings-on at the 'Hall'. Anne had made attempts, in her own way, to curb the relationship between Branwell and Mrs. Robinson, but had failed miserably; and this she expresses in the poem. 123   Once again, she declares that the only 'bliss' she can experience is in her dreams.

The following is Edward Chitham's account of this poem:

'In this poem Anne reaches an unprecedented depth of despondency in which she asks for death. There are apparently three causes of misery:
(i)   Decay of friendship and absence of love;
(ii)  Grief in watching vice and sin outside and within;
(iii) Lack of 'freshening dew' from God.
The friendship in decay is unlikely to be that of Emily, since the sisters' poems at this time show similarity, perhaps co-operation. It is possible that the friendship is with Branwell, but it is most probably that of Mary Robinson, who in 'trying her wings' this year may have seemed to Anne to be rejecting her governess.'
124

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.111 & p.183)


Untitled

O God! if this indeed be all
            That Life can show to me:
If on my aching brow may fall
            No freshening dew from Thee:

If with no brighter light than this
            The lamp of hope may glow,
And I may only dream of bliss,
            And wake, to weary woe:

If friendship's solace must decay
            When other joys are gone;
And love must keep so far away
            While I go wandering on:

Wandering and toiling without gain,
            The slave of others' will,
With constant care, and frequent pain,
            Despised, forgotten still;

Grieving to look on vice and sin
            Yet powerless to quell,
The silent current from within,
            The outward torrent's swell:

While all the good I would impart,
            Each feeling I would share,
Are driven backward to my heart
            And turned to wormwood there.

If clouds must ever keep from sight
            The glories of the sun;
And I must suffer Winter's blight
            Ere Summer is begun:

If life must be so full of care,
            Then call me soon to Thee;
Or give me strength enough to bear
            My load of misery.


If This Be All

O God! if this indeed be all
    That Life can show to me;
If on my aching brow may fall
    No freshening dew from Thee,
--

If with no brighter light than this
    The lamp of hope may glow,
And I may only dream of bliss,
    And wake to weary woe;

If friendship's solace must decay,
    When other joys are gone,
And love must keep so far away,
    While I go wandering on, --

Wandering and toiling without gain,
    The slave of others' will,
With constant care, and frequent pain,
    Despised, forgotten still;

Grieving to look on vice and sin,
    Yet powerless to quell
The silent current from within,
    The outward torrent's swell:

While all the good I would impart,
    The feelings I would share,
Are driven backward to my heart,
    And turned to wormwood, there;

If clouds must ever keep from sight
    The glories of the Sun,
And I must suffer Winter's blight,
    Ere Summer is begun;

If life must be so full of care,
    Then call me soon to Thee;
Or give me strength enough to bear
    My load of misery.

Acton


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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