Winter-Night Meditations.

A poem by Patrick Bronte

Rude winter's come, the sky's o'ercast,
The night is cold and loud the blast,
The mingling snow comes driving down,
Fast whitening o'er the flinty ground.
Severe their lots whose crazy sheds
Hang tottering o'er their trembling heads:
Whilst blows through walls and chinky door
The drifting snow across the floor,
Where blinking embers scarcely glow,
And rushlight only serves to show
What well may move the deepest sigh,
And force a tear from pity's eye.
You there may see a meagre pair,
Worn out with labour, grief, and care:
Whose naked babes, in hungry mood,
Complain of cold and cry for food;
Whilst tears bedew the mother's cheek,
And sighs the father's grief bespeak;
For fire or raiment, bed or board,
Their dreary shed cannot afford.

Will no kind hand confer relief,
And wipe away the tear of grief?
A little boon it well might spare
Would kindle joy, dispel their care,
Abate the rigour of the night
And warm each heart, achievement bright.
Yea, brighter far than such as grace
The annals of a princely race,
Where kings bestow a large domain
But to receive as much again,
Or e'en corrupt the purest laws,
Or fan the breath of vain applause.

Peace to the man who stoops his head
To enter the most wretched shed:
Who, with his condescending smiles,
Poor diffidence and awe beguiles:
Till all encouraged, soon disclose
The different causes of their woes,
The moving tale dissolves his heart:
He liberally bestows a part
Of God's donation. From above
Approving Heaven, in smiles of love,
Looks on, and through the shining skies
The great Recording Angel flies
The doors of mercy to unfold,
And write the deed in lines of gold;
There, if a fruit of Faith's fair tree,
To shine throughout eternity,
In honour of that Sovereign dread,
Who had no place to lay His head,
Yet opened wide sweet Mercy's door
To all the desolate and poor,
Who, stung with guilt and hard oppressed,
Groaned to be with Him, and at rest.

Now, pent within the city wall,
They throng to theatre and hall,
Where gesture, look, and words conspire,
To stain the mind, the passions fire;
Whence sin-polluted streams abound,
That whelm the country all around.
Ah! Modesty, should you be here,
Close up the eye and stop the ear;
Oppose your fan, nor peep beneath,
And blushing shun their tainted breath.

Here every rake exerts his art
T' ensnare the unsuspecting heart.
The prostitute, with faithless smiles,
Remorseless plays her tricks and wiles.
Her gesture bold and ogling eye,
Obtrusive speech and pert reply,
And brazen front and stubborn tone,
Show all her native virtue's flown.
By her the thoughtless youth is ta'en,
Impoverished, disgraced, or slain:
Through her the marriage vows are broke,
And Hymen proves a galling yoke.
Diseases come, destruction's dealt,
Where'er her poisonous breath is felt;
Whilst she, poor wretch, dies in the flame
That runs through her polluted frame.

Once she was gentle, fair, and kind,
To no seducing schemes inclined,
Would blush to hear a smutty tale,
Nor ever strolled o'er hill or dale,
But lived a sweet domestic maid,
To lend her aged parents aid,
And oft they gazed and oft they smiled
On this their loved and only child:
They thought they might in her be blest,
And she would see them laid at rest.

A blithesome youth of courtly mien
Oft called to see this rural queen:
His oily tongue and wily art
Soon gained Maria's yielding heart.
The aged pair, too, liked the youth,
And thought him naught but love and truth.
The village feast at length is come;
Maria by the youth's undone:
The youth is gone, so is her fame;
And with it all her sense of shame:
And now she practises the art
Which snared her unsuspecting heart;
And vice, with a progressive sway,
More hardened makes her every day.
Averse to good and prone to ill,
And dexterous in seducing skill;
To look, as if her eyes would melt:
T' affect a love she never felt;
To half suppress the rising sigh;
Mechanically to weep and cry;
To vow eternal truth, and then
To break her vow, and vow again;
Her ways are darkness, death, and hell:
Remorse and shame and passions fell,
And short-lived joy, with endless pain,
Pursues her in a gloomy train.

O Britain fair, thou queen of isles!
Nor hostile arms nor hostile wiles
Could ever shake thy solid throne
But for thy sins. Thy sins alone
Can make thee stoop thy royal head,
And lay thee prostrate with the dead.
In vain colossal England mows,
With ponderous strength, the yielding foes;
In vain fair Scotia, by her side,
With courage flushed and Highland pride,
Whirls her keen blade with horrid whistle
And lops off heads like tops of thistle;
In vain brave Erin, famed afar,
The flaming thunderbolt of war,
Profuse of life, through blood does wade,
To lend her sister kingdom aid:
Our conquering thunders vainly roar
Terrific round the Gallic shore;
Profoundest statesmen vainly scheme,
'Tis all a vain, delusive dream,
If treacherously within our breast
We foster sin, the deadly pest.

Where Sin abounds Religion dies,
And Virtue seeks her native skies;
Chaste Conscience hides for very shame,
And Honour's but an empty name.
Then, like a flood, with fearful din,
A gloomy host comes pouring in.
First Bribery, with her golden shield,
Leads smooth Corruption o'er the field;
Dissension wild, with brandished spear,
And Anarchy bring up the rear:
Whilst Care and Sorrow, Grief and Pain
Run howling o'er the bloody plain.

O Thou, whose power resistless fills
The boundless whole, avert those ills
We richly merit: purge away
The sins which on our vitals prey;
Protect, with Thine almighty shield
Our conquering arms by flood and field,
Wheel round the time when Peace shall smile
O'er Britain's highly-favoured Isle;
When all shall loud hosannas sing
To Thee, the great Eternal King!

But hark! the bleak, loud whistling wind!
Its crushing blast recalls to mind
The dangers of the troubled deep;
Where, with a fierce and thundering sweep,
The winds in wild distraction rave,
And push along the mountain wave
With dreadful swell and hideous curl!
Whilst hung aloft in giddy whirl,
Or drop beneath the ocean's bed,
The leaky bark without a shred
Of rigging sweeps through dangers dread.
The flaring beacon points the way,
And fast the pumps loud clanking play:
It 'vails not, hark! with crashing shock
She's shivered 'gainst the solid rock,
Or by the fierce, incessant waves
Is beaten to a thousand staves;
Or bilging at her crazy side,
Admits the thundering hostile tide,
And down she sinks! triumphant rave
The winds, and close her wat'ry grave!

The merchant's care and toil are vain,
His hopes He buried in the main,
In vain the mother's tearful eye
Looks for its sole remaining joy,
In vain fair Susan walks the shore,
And sighs for him she'll see no more,
For deep they lie in ocean's womb,
And fester in a wat'ry tomb.

Now, from the frothy, thundering main,
My meditations seek the plain,
Where, with a swift fantastic flight,
They scour the regions of the night,
Free as the winds that wildly blow
O'er hill and dale the blinding snow,
Or, through the woods, their frolics play,
And whirling, sweep the dusty way,
When summer shines with burning glare,
And sportive breezes skim the air,
And Ocean's glassy breast is fanned
To softest curl by Zephyr bland.

But Summer's gone, and Winter's here,
With iron sceptre rules the year,
Beneath this dark inclement sky
How many wanderers faint and die!
One, flouncing o'er the treacherous snow,
Sinks in the pit that yawns below!
Another numbed, with panting lift
Inhales the suffocating drift!
And creeping cold, with stiffening force,
Extends a third, a pallid corse!

Thus death, in varied dreadful form,
Triumphant rides along the storm:
With shocking scenes assails the sight,
And makes more sad the dismal night!
How blest the man, whose lot is free
From such distress and misery;
Who, sitting by his blazing fire,
Is closely wrapt in warm attire;
Whose sparkling glasses blush with wine
Of mirthful might and flavour fine;
Whose house, compact and strong, defies
The rigour of the angry skies!
The ruffling winds may blow their last,
And snows come driving on the blast;
And frosts their icy morsels fling,
But all within is mild as spring!

How blest is he! blest did I say?
E'en sorrow here oft finds its way.
The senses numbed by frequent use,
Of criminal, absurd abuse
Of heaven's blessings, listless grow,
And life is but a dream of woe.

Oft fostered on the lap of ease,
Grow racking pain and foul disease,
And nervous whims, a ghastly train,
Inflicting more than corp'ral pain:
Oft gold and shining pedigree
Prove only splendid misery.
The king who sits upon his throne,
And calls the kneeling world his own,
Has oft of cares a greater load
Than he who feels his iron rod.

No state is free from care and pain
Where fiery passions get the rein,
Or soft indulgence, joined with ease,
Begets a thousand ills to tease:
Where fair Religion, heavenly maid,
Has slighted still her offered aid.
Her matchless power the will subdues,
And gives the judgment clearer views:
Denies no source of real pleasure,
And yields us blessings out of measure;
Our prospect brightens, proves our stay,
December turns to smiling May;
Conveys us to that peaceful shore,
By raging billows lashed no more,
Where endless happiness remains,
And one eternal summer reigns.

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