I’ve chosen Charlotte Brontё’s ‘Parting’, first published in 1846, as my suggested lockdown poem. It’s a poem that speaks of missing home and loved ones, as Charlotte Brontё certainly did when she or one of her sisters were away from home as teachers and governesses. I first encountered this poem many years ago in my early teens (I think!), but some of its lines have stuck with me, and I’ve returned to it often in my mind when I’ve had to move and leave behind family, friends and familiar places. It seems particularly appropriate as lockdown poetry: it acknowledges that being apart is difficult – something to be faced with courage – but reminds us that it is only a physical separation; love and emotional connection don’t rely on being in shared physical space. In Brontё’s poem, ‘heart’ can meet with ‘warm heart’ even at a distance, and respond with the same love and affection as if they were together – or perhaps even more, as we forget about each other’s foibles when we’re apart! Finally, at this time when all our days are strange, the poem’s exhortation to take each day as it comes, trusting that things will be better in the future, seems to me to be wise!
Charlotte Brontё, ‘Parting’
There’s no use in weeping,
Though we are condemned to part:
There’s such a thing as keeping
A remembrance in one’s heart:
There’s such a thing as dwelling
On the thought ourselves have nurs’d,
And with scorn and courage telling
The world to do its worst.
We’ll not let its follies grieve us,
We’ll just take them as they come;
And then every day will leave us
A merry laugh for home.
When we’ve left each friend and brother,
When we’re parted wide and far,
We will think of one another,
As even better than we are.
Every glorious sight above us,
Every pleasant sight beneath,
We’ll connect with those that love us,
Whom we truly love till death!
In the evening, when we’re sitting
By the fire perchance alone,
Then shall heart with warm heart meeting,
Give responsive tone for tone.
We can burst the bonds which chain us,
Which cold humans have wrought,
And where none shall dare restrain us
We can meet again, in thought.
So there’s no use in weeping
Bear a cheerful spirit still;
Never doubt that Fate is keeping
Future good for present ill.
If you want to know more about Charlotte Bronte and her family, the Bronte Parsonage Museum is a good place to start!