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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The Windy Moors

The snow continues and, apart from the images it evokes of Imperial Russia - the winter balls, the opulent carriages, the wilderness of Siberia, and the snowflakes on the lamps of Grand Duke Serge's carriage, as he and Ella (Grand Duchess Elizabeth) emerge from the theatre only days before his assassination; Ella, kneeling over his remains in the snow...It also brings to mind the 'wily windy Moors' of Emily Bronte's beautiful experience (and Kate Bush's fabulous interpretation of it!).

Today, according to the local news, Haworth was deep in snow. The silence and bleakness of snow seems so apt for the fascinating soul of Emily Bronte! Seemingly sheltered, the daughter of a parson, cut off from the world, despising having to be in company - to the extent that she was ill if she were compelled to be away from the freedom of the Moors and her own inner world for any length of time - she lived within herself with so mystical and imaginative an inner life that she seemed barely capable of surviving in the day-to-day world. The contrast of appearances and what is really so, is so striking in Emily Bronte!

At the top of a hill, the parsonage overlooks a graveyard where many of the headstones were originally laid flat on the earth so that wolves didn't dig up the bodies, or so that - which is more macabre? - the undertakers could turn the stones over and engrave names on the other side to fit more bodies into the graves! This was the view from Emily's windows. All around was the great expanse of the Moors. She never married. She never did very much at all. A brief spell in Brussels, where she was viewed as unfriendly; working as a teacher and hating every moment that kept her away from the freedom to walk and think and be with her beautiful animal friends...And yet, what an inner life that came out in such writing as 'Wuthering Heights' with its darkness and shadow side, with its passion and sheer, raw, untamed emotion and 'violence' - truly Nature in the raw. No wonder she is seen as such a 'Pagan soul'!

To me, Emily Bronte is a true mystic. Her soul was forever 'in another place' and unfettered. If only she had found a way to live on earth what her soul was reaching for! Her brilliant poem The Prisoner speaks so clearly of that anguish of disparity between 'what the soul knows' and physical life; the sense of being enchained in a body:

...Mute music soothes my breast - unutter'd harmony
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.

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.

I wish she could have found a way for her Spirit to be free, without having to leave at such an early age. But she loved the inner worlds, and the beautiful snow creates that sense of
stillness, wherein the inner and the outer merge.


Mikaela D'eigh said...

Cristina ~

How beautiful! I went straight away and looked up the whole of The Prisoner. Absolute, devestating genius.

Do you ever feel like you are the only one who sees? The only one who feels intensely this press of flesh on soul and chain on flesh? Sometimes I think the rest of the world has deliberately drugged itself. And other times I meet people who honestly have no clue what I'm "babbling" about and think I'm just another bohemian drama queen! Hmmm...I feel a post coming on!

It is 61 here in Virginia ~ which is simply sick and wrong in December. Thank you for bringing some snow into my Southern life! ;)

Christina said...

Mikaela, I really understand what you've written :-) Isn't Emily's poem just the perfect expression of that intensity of feeling that is so hard to describe without sounding like an utter 'headcase'?
So what if it sounds like a bohemian drama queen (sounds like a good way to be to me!!).
To quote another poet (another favourite of mine - T.S. Eliot), if you try to explain, you often find yourself saying,
"And that wasn't what I meant at all...Wasn't what I meant at all..." (I love his stream of consciousness poems; the way life goes on in the background while all this intensity of the soul trying to make sense of the physicality is being played out in the foreground - and that is another post for another time :-) ).

There is something so, so wonderful to me, when you come across a poem like this that says what you feel, and (to quote yet another person, whose name I can't recall!!) you think, "What?? You, too? I thought I was the only one!" Isn't that great?
Isn't it the most wonderful gift in the world for writers to be able to translate those feelings/knowings into words? That, I think, is at the heart of being a writer...and is all I aspire to!

It's wonderful when these things can be really read and understood without the ridiculous 'scholastic' slants and bizarre interpretations put onto Emily's writing. She felt. She wrote. She was Nature in the raw...An absolute 'pagan soul' in the highest sense :-).

Mikaela D'eigh said...

It's soo true! I just finished writing a post on this. Sad to say, but you learn to open that secret door only to other kindred spirits. Everyone else just looks at you like you have two heads!

I love T.S. Eliot too:

"Twelve o'clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory..."

Don't you just love that!? What an absolute genius with words! As was C.S. Lewis, who said "What? You too?!...." I must say that I'm very blessed ~ I've had more moments like that then most.

I agree. I shudder to think what such people would do to my scribblings after I die. I feel like I should write somewhere: "I lived. I loved and I felt. Intensely. Nothing more, nothing less. Put a stupid spin on it and I'll come back and haunt you." :D

Oooo! I cannot wait to read your post on Mr. Eliot!