Sunday, August 07, 2016

Charlotte Bronte's poem on idolatry

It struck me later that Friday's poem is not unlike the second poem I posted here, which was way back in 2007 so I'll post it again. Charlotte Brontë is more dramatic (hello Brontë sisters!), and the point of it is not so much that she had made an idol of her love (though the response for that was certainly the same), but that God will forgive that fault, which is also good.

(Now I am just going to lie on the couch after a weekend of family trauma and comings and goings.)

He Saw My Heart's Woe
Charlotte Brontë

He saw my heart's woe, discovered my soul's anguish,
How in fever, in thirst, in atrophy it pined;
Knew he could heal, yet looked and let it languish,
To it's moans spirit-deaf, to its pangs spirit-blind.

But once a year he heard a whisper low and dreary
Appealing for aid, entreating some reply;
Only when sick, soul-worn, and torture weary,
Breathed I that prayer, heaved I that sigh.

He was mute as is the grave, he stood stirless as a tower;
At last I looked up, and saw I prayed to stone:
I asked help of that which to help had no power,
I sought love where love was utterly unknown.

Idolater I kneeled to an idol cut in rock!
I might have slashed my flesh and drawn my heart's best blood:
The Granite God had felt no tenderness, no shock;
My Baal had not seen nor heard nor understood.

In dark remorse I rose; I rose in darker shame;
Self-condemned I withdrew to an exile from my kind;
A solitude I sought where mortal never came,
Hoping in its wilds forgetfulness to find.

Now, Heaven, heal the wound which I still deeply feel;
The glorious hosts look not in scorn on our poor race;
Thy King eternal doth no iron judgment deal
On suffering worms who seek forgiveness, comfort, grace.

He gave our hearts to love: He will not Love despise,
E'en if the gift be lost, as mine was long ago;
He will forgive the fault, will bid the offender rise,
Wash out with dews of bliss the fiery brand of woe;

And give a sheltered place beneath the unsullied throne,
Whence the soul redeemed may mark Time's fleeting course round earth;
And know its trials overpast, its sufferings gone,
And feel the peril past of Death's immortal birth.

Charlotte Brontë

No comments: