Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Emily Brontë. 1818–1848
  
737. The Prisoner
  
STILL let my tyrants know, I am not doom'd to wear 
Year after year in gloom and desolate despair; 
A messenger of Hope comes every night to me, 
And offers for short life, eternal liberty. 
 
He comes with Western winds, with evening's wandering airs,         5
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars: 
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire, 
And visions rise, and change, that kill me with desire. 
 
Desire for nothing known in my maturer years, 
When Joy grew mad with awe, at counting future tears:  10
When, if my spirit's sky was full of flashes warm, 
I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunder-storm. 
 
But first, a hush of peace—a soundless calm descends; 
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends. 
Mute music soothes my breast—unutter'd harmony  15
That I could never dream, till Earth was lost to me. 
 
Then dawns the Invisible; the Unseen its truth reveals; 
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels; 
Its wings are almost free—its home, its harbour found, 
Measuring the gulf, it stoops, and dares the final bound.  20
 
O dreadful is the check—intense the agony— 
When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see; 
When the pulse begins to throb—the brain to think again— 
The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain. 
 
Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less;  25
The more that anguish racks, the earlier it will bless; 
And robed in fires of hell, or bright with heavenly shine, 
If it but herald Death, the vision is divine. 
 
 
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