Letter from a Father on Earth to His Child in Her Grave by Branwell Brontë

From Earth, –whose life-reviving April showers

Hide winter’s withered grass ‘neath springtide flowers,

And give, in each soft wind that drives the rain,

Promise of fields and forests green again–

I write to thee, the aspect of whose face

Can never change with change of time or place;

Whose eyes could look on India’s wildest wars

More calmly than the hardiest son of Mars;

Whose lips, more firm than Stoic’s long ago,

Would neither smile with joy nor blanch with woe;

Whose limbs could sufferings far more firmly bear

Than could heroic sinews strung for war;

Whose frame desires no good, nor shrinks from ill,

Nor feels distraction’s throb nor pleasure’s thrill.

I write words to thee which thou wilt not read,

For thou wilt slumber on howe’er may bleed

The heart, which many think a worthless stone,

But which oft aches for its beloved one;

Nor, if God’s life mysterious, from on high

Gave, once gain, expression to thine eye,

Would’st thou thy father know, or feel that he

Gave life, and lineaments, and thoughts to thee,

For, when thou diest, thy day was in its dawn,

And night still struggled with life’s opening morn;

The twilight star of childhood, thy young days

Alone illumined, with its twinkling rays,

So sweet, yet feeble; given from those dusky skies,

Whose kindling, future noontide prophesies,

But tells us not that brightest noon may shroud

Our sunshine with a sudden veil of cloud.

If, when thou gavest back the life which ne’er

To thee had given either hope or fear,

But peacefully had passed, nor asked if joy

Should cheer thy future path, or grief annoy–

If, then, thoud’st seen, upon a summer sea

One, once in features, as in blood like thee

On skies of azure blue and waters green

Commingled in the midst of summer’s sheen,

Hopelessly gazing–ever hesitating

‘Twixt miseries, every hour fresh fears creating

And joys–whate’er they cost–still doubly dear–

Those “troubled pleasures soon chastised by fear”

If thou hadst seen him thou wouldst ne’er believe

That thou hadst yet known what it was to live.

Thy eyes could only see thy mother’s breast,

Thy feeling only wish on that to rest;

It was thy world; –Thy food and sleep it gave,

And slight the change ‘twixt it and childhood’s grave.

Thou view’dst this world like one who, prone, reposes

Upon a plain and in a bed of roses

With nought to see save marbled skies above,

Nor hear, expect the breezes in the grove:

I–thy life’s source–was a wanderer breasting

Keen mountain winds, and on a summit resting,

Whose rough rocks rose above the grassy mead

With sleet and north winds howling over head,

And nature, like a map, beneath him spread:

Far winding river, tree, and tower, and town,

Shadow and sunlight, ‘neath his gaze mark’d down

By that mysterious hand which graves the plan

Of that drear country called the life of man.

If seen, men’s eyes would, loathing, shrink from thee,

And turn, perchance, with no disgust from me;

Yet thou had’st beauty, innocence, and smiles,

And now hast rest from this world’s woes and wiles,

While I have restlessness and worrying care,

So, sure thy lot if brighter–happier–far!

So may it prove–and, though thy ears may never

Hear these words sound beyond Death’s darksome river

Not vainly, from the confines of despair

May rise a voice of joy that THOU art freed from care!

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