On a sunny brae alone I lay
One summer afternoon;
It was the marriage-time of May,
With her young lover, June.
From her mother’s heart seemed loath to part
That queen of bridal charms,
But her father smiled on the fairest child
He ever held in his arms.
The trees did wave their plumy crests,
The glad birds carolled clear;
And I, of all the wedding guests,
Was only sullen there!
There was not one, but wished to shun
My aspect void of cheer;
The very gray rocks, looking on,
Asked, “What do you here?”
And I could utter no reply;
In sooth, I did not know
Why I had brought a clouded eye
To greet the general glow.
So, resting on a heathy bank,
I took my heart to me;
And we together sadly sank
Into a reverie.
We thought, “When winter comes again,
Where will these bright things be?
All vanished, like a vision vain,
An unreal mockery!
“The birds that now so blithely sing,
Through deserts, frozen dry,
Poor spectres of the perished spring,
In famished troops will fly.
“And why should we be glad at all?
The leaf is hardly green,
Before a token of its fall
Is on the surface seen!”
Now, whether it were really so,
I never could be sure;
But as in fit of peevish woe,
I stretched me on the moor,
A thousand thousand gleaming fires
Seemed kindling in the air;
A thousand thousand silvery lyres
Resounded far and near:
Methought, the very breath I breathed
Was full of sparks divine,
And all my heather-couch was wreathed
By that celestial shine!
And, while the wide earth echoing rung
To that strange minstrelsy
The little glittering spirits sung,
Or seemed to sing, to me:
“O mortal! mortal! let them die;
Let time and tears destroy,
That we may overflow the sky
With universal joy!
“Let grief distract the sufferer’s breast,
And night obscure his way;
They hasten him to endless rest,
And everlasting day.
“To thee the world is like a tomb,
A desert’s ***** shore;
To us, in unimagined bloom,
It brightens more and more!
“And, could we lift the veil, and give
One brief glimpse to thine eye,
Thou wouldst rejoice for those that live,
BECAUSE they live to die.”
The music ceased; the noonday dream,
Like dream of night, withdrew;
But Fancy, still, will sometimes deem
Her fond creation true.
Published in the 1846 collection Poems By Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell under Emily’s nom de plume ‘Ellis Bell’.