Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Every age must feel, at some time, that sense that the days are not only dark and dreary but that they will stretch on for ever. So it must seem in much of the world as 2017 draws to a close, seasonal warmth and cheer notwithstanding. Longfellow in ‘The Rainy Day’ tried to lighten the sad heart by telling us that the sun still shines behind the clouds but it’s hard to summon any optimism in these days of depressing rolling news and indignant instant media.
Emily Brontë’s ‘To Imagination’ has pre-echoes of some of our own despair — “so hopeless is the world without” with its “guile, and hate, and doubt, and cold suspicion” — but holds within it seeds to lighten the heart a little more than the promise of future sunnier weather: seeds of friendship and imagination:
When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While thou canst speak with such a tone!
So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.
What matters it, that, all around,
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?
Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart, how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:
But, thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death,
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.
I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening’s quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!
Unlike Longfellow’s lines promising the sun shining somewhere else out of reach (“beyond the clouds”) Emily points to the fact that “within our bosom’s bound | We hold a bright, untroubled sky, | Warm with ten thousand mingled rays | Of suns that know no winter days”. Her true friend — Imagination is her name — provides kindness, solace and sweet hope. Against Longfellow’s resigned fatalism (“thy fate is the common fate of all”) Emily’s imaginative optimism bears her up.
In dark and dreary days such as these — especially in northern midwinter climes — we will do better to build a better future in our minds, to imagine a world which exists in harmony with itself, rather than passively and patiently succumb to current malaises: they can only get worse if we do nothing to counter them in thought or word, let alone deed.
• A post for #BloggingTheSpirit “that speaks, grounds, connects or inspires.” This is a theme hosted by Laurie at Relevant Obscurity planned for the last Sunday of each month (which now happens to fall on the last day of the year).
Oh, and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda for tomorrow!