Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
The Prisoner
By Emily Brontë (1818–1848)
 
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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