Sept 29, 2014: [‘Often rebuked, yet always back returning’]


I realized recently, lying awake one night, that in my zeal to keep this forum current, I’ve been neglectful of “the ancients” lately. And by lately, I mean, oh, the past couple years. By ancients I might mean actual greek and latin poets, but also your Shakespeares, your Miltons, your Popes, your Tennysons, your Donnes… basically all those rhyming pre-20th century men and women. I’d love to take suggestions for readers’ favorite underused classic poets for future reading.
Today, since yesterday was my first day of work at a new old job, in a new old location, I wanted to print something about the idea of return. I found a poem by Emily Bronte (1818-1848), that I’d never seen before. Cripes, she only lived to be 30? That’s sad.  Although she’s a canonized English author, there aren’t many reliable sources for the details of her life. She only published a handful of poems while alive, under a pseudonym, and her sister Charlotte revised and published more after Emily’s death. Both of them supported themselves by teaching, although they seemed to view it as hard labor, and not a vocation. Emily died of consumption after refusing medical treatment, labeling it “quackery.” The wild romanticism and melancholy seen in their other works are present here. -ed.

[‘Often rebuked, yet always back returning’]

Often rebuked, yet always back returning
    To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
    For idle dreams of things which cannot be:

To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region;
    Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
    Bring the unreal world too strangely near.

I’ll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
    And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
    The clouded forms of long-past history.

I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading:
    It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the gray flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
    Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.

What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
    More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
    Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.

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