Thursday, April 8, 2021

Brontë and Dickinson Don’t Go to Church—National Poetry Month 2021

The only universally acknowledged photograph of Emily Dickinson take about 1847 when she was 16 or 17 years old.

In the semi-cloister of her family’s Amherst, Massachusetts home Emily Dickinson read and admired the work of Emily Brontë, the most famous of the three English literary sisters and author of Wuthering Heights.  Brontë died in 1848 at age 30.  That was just about the time that the only universally acknowledge photo of Dickinson was taken as teen age girl.  Likely she had already read Wuthering Heights and perhaps the collection of poetry that the three sisters published together.  If not, she soon would, and find a kindred spirit.  Brontë was rooted firmly in English Romanticism.  Dickinson breathed the air of its American cousin, Transcendentalism.  Both eschewed orthodox Christianity and embraced an alternate, personal spirituality that still speaks to us today.

                        Emily Brontë. 

No Coward Soul is Mine

Vain are the thousand creeds

That move men’s hearts: unutterably vain;

Worthless as withered weeds,

Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,


To waken doubt in one

Holding so fast by thine infinity;

So surely anchored on

The steadfast rock of immortality.


With wide-embracing love

Thy spirit animates eternal years,

Pervades and broods above,

Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.


Though earth and man were gone,

And suns and universes ceased to be,

And Thou wert left alone,

Every existence would exist in Thee.


There is not room for Death,

Nor atom that his might could render void:

Thou—Thou art Being and Breath,

And what Thou art may never be destroyed.


—Emily Brontë


Some keep the Sabbath going to church


Some keep the Sabbath going to church —

I keep it, staying at Home —

With a Bobolink for a Chorister —

And an Orchard, for a Dome —


Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice —

I just wear my Wings —

And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,

Our little Sexton — sings.


God preaches, a noted Clergyman —

And the sermon is never long,

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last —

I’m going, all along.


--Emily Dickinson

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