No coward soul is mine

Emily Brontë is most famous today for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, but was also one of the greatest poets of her day. This poem is the last one she wrote, while dying from tuberculosis (for which she refused treatment – perhaps sensibly, since what she needed were not-yet-invented antibiotics). Her sisters discovered the poem in her desk after they had buried her, and it has lived since then as a testament to her courage and spiritual strength in the face of death. I felt some of her language has become difficult for modern readers, since the way that we talk about spirituality has changed so much. So, I adapted some of the vocabulary of the poem for our time, while trying to maintain as much of the original’s sound, imagery and ideas as possible. I hope I’ve helped Emily’s message to once again come through.

No coward soul is mine
By Emily Brontë
Adapted by Kimberly G. Jackson

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s tumult and storms
I see a truth that shines
Dispelling fear and keeping me from harm

The life within my heart
Is joined, I know, to everything that is
The Whole sustains the part
I am, and through me, its power lives

Vain are the dogmatic creeds
That men repeat, unthinking, to their graves
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth upon the ocean waves

They’d almost cast doubt on
The fact that we are all Infinity,
Each of us anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

But wide-embracing Love
Is the true spirit animating time
It fills earth and sky above
Dissolving and creating forms divine

If earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes turned to dust
Love would still go on
Sustaining all Existence in its trust

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since Love is Being and Breath
And what Love is may never be destroyed.

 

Original poem by Emily Brontë:

No Coward Soul Is Mine 

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

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Kimberly Gladman Jackson is the author of Materfamilias (Tandeta Books, 2018) and Tesseract (Finishing Line Press, 2016).
You can connect with her on her website.

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