The Student's Serenade
Written: February 1844.  First Published: 1846.

This poem was written in February 1844, shortly after Anne's return to Thorp Green from her Christmas holidays. Edward Chitham notes that at this time she was buying and annotating Latin and German books, and the title may be a reference to herself.117n  This is also suggested in the first verses, where the poet appears to fall asleep while studying the 'learned volumes'. Although the early lines appear to be auto-biographical, the poem gradually drifts into a Gondal setting. The manuscript is signed 'Alexander Hybernia', making this one of the very few 'Gondal' poems that Anne wrote at Thorp Green. Chitham also notes that a contemporary Haworth report indicates there was much frost and snow this month. It is unlikely that the weather around the Ouseburn area would be much different, and this is strongly indicated throughout the poem. It seems many of the weather descriptions in Anne's poems - even the Gondal ones - are based on actuality.

Along with a number of minor adjustments - particularly with punctuation - the third verse was dropped from the version which appeared in 'Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell': (Both versions are given below.)

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.98 & p.179)


I have slept upon my couch
But my spirit did not rest,
For the labours of the day
Yet my weary soul opprest.

And before my dreaming eyes
Still the learned volumes lay,
And I could not close their leaves
And I could not turn away.

While the grim preceptors laughed
And exulted in my woe:
Till I felt my tingling frame
With the fire of anger glow.

But I oped my eyes at last,
And I heard a muffled sound,
'Twas the night breeze come to say
That the snow was on the ground.

Then I knew that there was rest
On the mountain's bosom free;
So I left my fevered couch
And I flew to waken thee.

I have flown to waken thee
For if thou wilt not arise,
Then my soul can drink no peace
From these holy moonlight skies.

And this waste of virgin snow
To my sight will not be fair
Unless thou wilt smiling come,
Love, to wander with me there.

Then awake! Maria, wake!
For if thou couldst only know
How the quiet moonlight sleeps
On this wilderness of snow

And the groves of ancient trees
In their snowy garb arrayed,
Till they stretch into the gloom
Of the distant valley's shade.

O, I know thou wouldst rejoice
To inhale this bracing air,
Thou wouldst break thy sweetest sleep
To behold a scene so fair.

O'er these wintry wilds alone
Thou wouldst joy to wander free,
And it will not please thee less
Though that bliss be shared with me.

Alexander Hybernia


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

I have slept upon my couch,
But my spirit did not rest,
For the labours of the day
Yet my weary soul opprest;

And, before my dreaming eyes
Still the learned volumes lay,
And I could not close their leaves,
And I could not turn away.

But I oped my eyes at last,
And I heard a muffled sound;
'Twas the night-breeze, come to say
That the snow was on the ground.

Then I knew that there was rest
On the mountain's bosom free;
So I left my fevered couch,
And I flew to waken thee!

I have flown to waken thee --
For, if thou wilt not arise,
Then my soul can drink no peace
From these holy moonlight skies.

And, this waste of virgin snow
To my sight will not be fair,
Unless thou wilt smiling come,
Love, to wander with me there.

Then, awake! Maria, wake!
For, if thou couldst only know
How the quiet moonlight sleeps
On this wilderness of snow,

And the groves of ancient trees,
In their snowy garb arrayed,
Till they stretch into the gloom
Of the distant valley's shade;

I know thou wouldst rejoice
To inhale this bracing air;
Thou wouldst break thy sweetest sleep
To behold a scene so fair.

O'er these wintry wilds, alone,
Thou wouldst joy to wander free;
And it will not please thee less,
Though that bliss be shared with me.

Acton


Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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