To --------
Written: December 1842.  First Published: 1959.

William Weightman (1840)Left: Portrait of William Weightman, sketched by Charlotte in February 1840.

In late August 1842, William Weightman fell ill with cholera. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he died on 6 September. The news would have come as a great shock to Anne, who was, at that time, working some forty miles away at Thorp Green. There is little doubt that this poem, written the following December, is a love-poem to Weightman; and indeed, is the first of a series she wrote over the following five years.113  The last two verses suggest that she and Weightman had been quite close at some point. This could have been during the previous Christmas holidays, when Charlotte referred to Weightman sighing softly as he sat opposite Anne in church, and looking out of the corners of his eyes to win her attention. They may also have been enjoying each others company during Anne's summer holidays of this year.114n  The poem has received little attention over the years, and its first publication only came in 1959 when it appeared in Ada Harrison's biography 'Anne Brontë - Her Life'.

(N.B: The text in red refers to the specific lines, also presented in red, in the poem below.)

Edward Chitham notes that 'the reference to the sun rising over the sea 115n  is reminiscent of Anne's drawing of 13 November 1839'. It seems certain that Anne's hero, Edward Weston, in Agnes Grey, was modelled, at least partly, on William Weightman. Agnes remarks:

'. . . Mr. Weston rose at length upon me, appearing like the morning star in my horizon . . .'.

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.87 & p.175)

I will not mourn thee, lovely one,
        Though thou art torn away.
'Tis said that if the morning sun
        Arise with dazzling ray

And shed a bright and burning beam
        Athwart the glittering main,
'Ere noon shall fade that laughing gleam
        Engulfed in clouds and rain.

And if thy life as transient proved,
        It hath been full as bright,
For thou wert hopeful and beloved;
        Thy spirit knew no blight.

If few and short the joys of life
        That thou on earth couldst know,
Little thou knew'st of sin and strife
        Nor much of pain and woe.

If vain thy earthly hopes did prove,
        Thou canst not mourn their flight;
Thy brightest hopes were fixed above
        And they shall know no blight.

And yet I cannot check my sighs,
        Thou wert so young and fair,
More bright than summer morning skies,
        But stern death would not spare;

He would not pass our darling by
        Nor grant one hour's delay,
But rudely closed his shining eye
        And frowned his smile away,

That angel smile that late so much
        Could my fond heart rejoice;
And he has silenced by his touch
        The music of thy voice.

I'll weep no more thine early doom,
        But O! I still must mourn
The pleasures buried in thy tomb,
        For they will not return.

Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage

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