Memory
Written: May 29th. 1844.  First Published: 1846.

This poem was almost certainly written at Thorp Green, just as Anne was due to return home for her summer holidays. The manuscript version is dated May 29th, 1844. It seems that the first verse is consistent with a report of the weather for that month: 'This month has been very dry', reported Shackleton.

Edward Chitham writes: 'The idea of memory working upon childhood experiences is Wordsworthian, and it may be this aspect of the poem which has caused it to be singled out by critics, including Hale, Dr Phylis Bentley, and Stanford.'

There were some slight alterations - mostly in punctuation - for its inclusion in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell: both versions are presented below.

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.101 & p.180)


Brightly the sun of summer shone
Green fields and waving woods upon
      And soft winds wandered by.
Above, a sky of purest blue,
Around, bright flowers of loveliest hue
      Allured the gazer's eye.

But what were all these charms to me
When one sweet breath of memory
      Came gently wafting by?
I closed my eyes against the day
And called my willing soul away
      From earth and air and sky;

That I might simply fancy there
One little flower -- a primrose fair
      Just opening into sight.
As in the days of infancy,
An opening primrose seemed to me
      A source of strange delight.

Sweet Memory, ever smile on me;
Nature's chief beauties spring from thee,
      O, still thy tribute bring.
Still make the golden crocus shine
Among the flowers the most divine,
      The glory of the spring.

Still in the wall-flower's fragrance dwell,
And hover round the slight blue bell,
      My childhood's darling flower.
Smile on the little daisy still,
The buttercup's bright goblet fill
      With all thy former power.

For ever hang thy dreamy spell
Round mountain star and heatherbell,
      And do not pass away
From sparkling frost, or wreathed snow,
And whisper when the wild winds blow
      Or rippling waters play.

Is childhood then so all divine?
Or, Memory, is the glory thine
      That haloes thus the past?
Not all divine; its pangs of grief
Although perchance their stay be brief,
      Are bitter while they last.

Nor is the glory all thine own,
For on our earliest joys alone
      That holy light is cast.
With such a ray no spell of thine
Can make our later pleasures shine,
      Though long ago they passed.


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

Brightly the sun of summer shone,
Green fields and waving woods upon,
      And soft winds wandered by;
Above, a sky of purest blue,
Around, bright flowers of loveliest hue,
      Allured the gazer's eye.

But what were all these charms to me,
When one sweet breath of memory
      Came gently wafting by?
I closed my eyes against the day,
And called my willing soul away,
      From earth, and air, and sky;

That I might simply fancy there
One little flower -- a primrose fair,
      Just opening into sight;
As in the days of infancy,
An opening primrose seemed to me
      A source of strange delight.

Sweet Memory! ever smile on me;
Nature's chief beauties spring from thee,
      Oh, still thy tribute bring!
Still make the golden crocus shine
Among the flowers the most divine,
      The glory of the spring.

Still in the wall-flower's fragrance dwell;
And hover round the slight blue bell,
      My childhood's darling flower.
Smile on the little daisy still,
The buttercup's bright goblet fill
      With all thy former power.

For ever hang thy dreamy spell
Round mountain star and heather bell,
      And do not pass away
From sparkling frost, or wreathed snow,
And whisper when the wild winds blow,
      Or rippling waters play.

Is childhood, then, so all divine?
Or Memory, is the glory thine,
      That haloes thus the past?
Not all divine; its pangs of grief,
(Although, perchance, their stay be brief,)
      Are bitter while they last.

Nor is the glory all thine own,
For on our earliest joys alone
      That holy light is cast.
With such a ray, no spell of thine
Can make our later pleasures shine,
      Though long ago they passed.

Acton


Copyright © 2000 Michael Armitage

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