1842 | Brussels

Phantom Rising

Emily Brontë looks out at the magic in the moonlight.

How do I love on summer nights
to sit within this Norman door,
Whose somber portal hides the lights
Thickening above me evermore!

How do I love to hear the flow
Of Aspin’s water murmuring low;
And hours long listen to the breeze
That sighs in Rockden’s waving trees.

Tonight, there is no wind to wake
One ripple on the lonely lake;
Tonight, the clouds subdued and gray
Starlight and moonlight shut away.

’Tis calm and still and almost drear,
So utter is the solitude;
But still I love to linger here
And form my mood to nature’s mood.

There’s a wild walk beneath the rocks
Following the bend of Aspin’s side;
’Tis worn by feet of mountain flocks
That wander down to drink the tide.

Never by cliff and gnarled tree
Wound fairy path so sweet to me;
Yet of the native shepherds none,
In open day and cheerful sun,
Will tread its labyrinths alone;
Far less when evening’s pensive hour
Hushes the bird and shuts the flower,
And gives to fancy magic power
Over each familiar tone.

For round their hearths they’ll tell the tale,
And every listener swears it true,
How wanders there a phantom pale
With spirit eyes of dreamy blue.

It always walks with head declined,
Its long curls move not in the wind,
Its face is fair—divinely fair;
But brooding on that angel brow
Rests such a shade of deep despair
As nought divine could ever know.

How oft in twilight, lingering lone,
I’ve stood to watch that phantom rise,
And seen in mist and moonlit stone
Its gleaming hair and solemn eyes.

The ancient men, in secret, say
’Tis the first chief of Aspin gray
That haunts his feudal home;
But why, around that alien grave
Three thousand miles beyond the wave,
Where his exiled ashes lie
Under the cope of England’s sky,
Doth he not rather roam?

I’ve seen his picture in the hall;
It hangs upon an eastern wall,
And often when the sun declines
That picture like an angel shines;
And when the moonbeam, chill and blue,
Streams the spectral windows through,
That picture’s like a specter too.


Emily Brontë

From “Written in Aspin Castle.” Growing up motherless in a rectory amid the moors of Haworth in the 1820s, Brontë, along with her sisters Charlotte and Anne, received most of her schooling from her father. The three sisters published Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell under those pseudonyms in 1846, and Emily published Wuthering Heights in December 1847. One year later at the age of thirty, she died of tuberculosis.