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Monday, June 2, 2014

Last Lines - Anne Brontë

I hoped, that with the brave and strong,
My portioned task might lie;
To toil amid the busy throng,
With purpose pure and high.

But God has fixed another part,
And He has fixed it well;
I said so with my bleeding heart,
When first the anguish fell.

A dreadful darkness closes in
On my bewildered mind;
Oh, let me suffer and not sing,
Be tortured, yet resigned.

Shall I wish joy thy blessings share
And not endure their loss?
Or hope the martyr's crown to wear
And cast away the cross?

Thou, God, hast taken our delight,
Our treasured hope away;
Thou bidst us now weep through the night
And sorrow through the day.

These weary hours will not be lost,
These days of misery,
These nights of darkness, anguish-tost,
Can I but turn to Thee.

Weak and weary though I lie,
Crushed with sorrow, worn with pain,
I may lift to Heaven mine eye,
And strive to labour not in vain;

That inward strife against the sins
That ever wait on suffering
To strike whatever first begins:
Each ill that would corruption bring;

That secret labour to sustain
With humble patience every blow;
To gather fortitude from pain,
And hope and holiness from woe.

Thus let me serve Thee from my heart,
Whate'er may be my written fate:
Whether thus early to depart,
Or yet a while to wait.

If thou shouldst bring me back to life,
More humbled I should be;
More wise, more strengthened for the strife,
More apt to lean on Thee.

Should death be standing at the gate,
Thus should I keep my vow;
But, Lord! whatever be my fate,
Oh, let me serve Thee now!


Deeply pious, the youngest Brontë sister, Anne, recounts here her struggles with her faith, and accepting what she perceives as Fate, and God's "portioned task" for her.  The language of the poem is straightforward, and conveys the struggle Brontë feels in accepting her losses and tasks.  She does not know what she is to be in God's plan.  Is she to be a warrior of Faith?  Someone who long bears suffering and yet joyfully shares God's blessing?  Will she cast away her suffering ("cast away the cross") and be martyred instead?

She does not know.  What she does know, is that in "these days of misery, these nights of darkness, anguish-tost, can I but turn to Thee."  Despite all of her pain and uncertainty at her roles, her faith never wavers, and she knows to turn to God to sustain her in troubling times.  She does not want to "labour in vain," she desperately wants to be able to help.

She ends with a plea, "Thus let me serve Thee from my heart."  She is so desperate.  If she is to be resurrected, that is, to find eternal life in God, she would be better the second time around, she promises.  "If thou shouldst bring me back to life, More humbled I should be; more wise, more strengthened for the strife, more apt to lean on Thee."  She wants nothing more than to serve, ending with an anguished "Oh, let me serve Thee now!"  She wants her suffering to end, and whether that suffering be through her uncertainty, or from the pain of life on earth, and not in heaven, she wants it to end.

It is worth noting that this poem was written on Anne's deathbed, essentially.  She was dying of consumption, and it was quite far progressed by the time it was diagnosed.  She knew that she had little time left, but much suffering remaining.  To my mind, she is incredibly brave and of strong faith and mind to be so cogent and so accepting in the face of such knowledge.

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