Selected Poetry: 1974-
Paul Seifert, M.D
Assignments such as these are challenging. We never ask for them. But to bring momentary happiness into the life of such a person as Emily becomes reward enough and becomes a spur to action. Preparations for my descent were not difficult. I had to absorb her work, of course, every line she had written prior to and after my visitation. Existence outside of time and space offers distinct advantages, of course. I "watched" the movie, so to speak—the classic version of her greatest work. Sadly, she had not been able to see the film in her short lifetime, because of the confinements of the time and place in which she lived. 19th Century England can be a suffocating place. But Sir Olivier, in youth, became my perfect cover. I assumed his astounding appearance as the most suitable to my task.
Emily’s own beauty was so much grander than Merle Oberon’s, although Hollywood would have judged her plain. We always make our visitations at night, in what mortals call dreams. I found her mind immersed in sleep upon the Yorkshire moors, as anyone might have expected. The wind was high and bracing that beautiful November night. The heather dancing in the gusts threatened me and would have had me move off from that place, had I not been able to soothe and comfort its solitary vegetative pain. For a living thing so beautiful, heather can be a stilted plant.
I have always been a little disconcerted by the power we are given. She could not resist my entreaties. I needed to keep always before my mind the great truth that I was sent for her benefit and that nothing could accrue to me from this invasion. She needed the experiences that I could give her to be able to fashion her greatest work.
I lay down beside her and forced her eyes to open. She looked so deeply into my being that even my breath was taken away. She was a creature so deeply in need of love. Her sensibilities should long before have been ravished by the greatest physical passion. I was there to meet her greatest need. She cried out, unaccustomed to such usage, but I persisted. My assignment remained an inviolable mission dedicated to beauty and justice. I could not have harmed her, but I had to use her completely.
She had no choice but respond to me. I was beautiful, the fulfillment of her dreams. Her virginal form became rapturous and lustful. I brought out the madness of the moors and the heath outside Haworth that had been spawned in her delicate personality. I became Emily’s Heathcliff and she loved me far more deeply than Catherine had loved hers. I left her spent and taken, but oh so very happy. I wept in the cloisters for days on end, long after my assignment had ended. I could not fly for eons of what she may have considered time.
Two sisters sit in the tearoom at Haworth Parsonage. Tea has been served on this cold November afternoon. The north wind, raging off the moors, disturbs the solitude of an otherwise quiet day. Great ambitions lay in fallow on such a day. Words come with difficulty. Communication might have been impossible, in fact, were it not for the deep love that defines the difficult relationship that exists between these sisters.
"I have been having the most disturbing dreams, Charlotte," says the younger of the two.
"Oh," says the eldest, somewhat preoccupied with solitary thoughts.
"I am quite alone upon the moors in these dreams, on such nights as I might wish to capture someday in a book."
"You wander there so often, Emily Jane," offers the elder sister, "I doubt not the moors would haunt your dreams."
"Ah, so," reflects the other, "indeed, I do wander the moors, in search of what I cannot really say."
"But, you said these dreams disturbed you, did you not?" asks the elder sister. "Why was that?"
The younger of the two sisters cringes, knowing in her heart emotions and remembrances exist that can not be shared, even with a loving sister.
"Because my dreams disturb my sleep, you silly fool," replies the younger, curtailing any further discussion of a subject so disturbing.
That afternoon, alone in her room, Emily Bronte wrote the following poem:
Silent is the House; all are laid asleep
One alone looks out o'er the snow wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the 'wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.
Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding star.
Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame;
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.
What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
Who loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.
Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer, straight and clear-
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.