The Three Guides

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The Three Guides
by Anne Brontë
From Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846)

Spirit of earth! thy hand is chill.
I've felt its icy clasp;
And shuddering I remember still
That stony-hearted grasp.
Thine eye bids love and joy depart,
O turn its gaze from me!
It presses down my sinking heart;
I will not walk with thee!

'Wisdom is mine,' I've heard thee say,
'Beneath my searching eye,
All mist and darkness melt away,
Phantoms and fables fly.
Before me, truth can stand alone,
The naked, solid truth:
And man matured my worth will own,
If I am shunned by youth.

'Firm is my tread, and sure, though slow:
My footsteps never slide:
And he that follows me shall know
I am the surest guide.'
Thy boast is vain: but were it true
That thou couldst safely steer
Life's rough and devious pathway through
Such guidance I should fear.

How could I bear to walk for aye,
With eyes to earthward prone,
O'er trampled weeds, and miry clay,
And sand, and flinty stone.
Never the glorious view to greet
Of hill and dale and sky,
To see that Nature's charms are sweet
Or feel that Heaven is nigh?

If, in my heart arose a spring
A gush of thought divine,
At once stagnation thou wouldst bring
With that cold touch of thine!
If glancing up, I sought to snatch
But one glimpse of the sky,
My baffled gaze would only catch
Thy heartless, cold grey eye.

If, to the breezes wandering near,
I listened eagerly,
And deemed an angel's tongue to hear
That whispered hope to me,
That heavenly music would be drowned
In thy harsh, droning voice,
Nor inward thought, nor sight, nor sound
Might my sad soul rejoice.

Dull is thine ear; unheard by thee
The still small voice of Heaven.
Thine eyes are dim, and cannot see
The helps that God has given.
There is a bridge, o'er every flood,
Which thou canst not perceive,
A path, through every tangled wood;
But thou will not believe.

Striving to make thy way by force,
Toil-spent and bramble torn,
Thou'lt fell the tree that stops thy course,
And burst through briar and thorn;
And pausing by the river's side,
Poor reasoner, thou wilt deem,
By casting pebbles in its tide
To cross the swelling stream.

Right through the flinty rock thou'lt try
Thy toilsome way to bore,
Regardless of the pathway nigh
That would conduct thee o'er.
Not only are thou, then, unkind,
And freezing cold to me,
But unbelieving, deaf, and blind
I will not walk with thee!

Spirit of Pride! thy wings are strong;
Thine eyes like lightning shine;
Ecstatic joys to thee belong
And powers almost divine.
But 'tis a false destructive blaze,
Within those eyes I see,
Turn hence their fascinating gaze
I will not follow thee!

'Coward and fool!' thou mayst reply;
'Walk on the common sod;
Go trace, with timid foot and eye,
The steps by others trod.
'Tis best the beaten path to keep,
The ancient faith to hold,
To pasture with thy fellow sheep,
And lie within the fold.

'Cling to the earth, poor grovelling worm,
'Tis not for thee to soar
Against the fury of the storm,
Amid the thunder's roar.
There's glory in that daring strife
Unknown, undreamt by thee;
There's speechless rapture in the life
Of those who follow me!'

Yes; I have seen thy votaries oft,
Upheld by thee their guide,
In strength and courage mount aloft
The steepy mountain-side;
I've seen them stand against the sky,
And gazing from below
Beheld thy lightning in their eye,
Thy triumph on their brow.

Oh! I have felt what glory then
What transport must be theirs'
So far above their fellow men,
Above their toils and cares,
Inhaling nature's purest breath,
Her riches round them spread,
The wide expanse of earth beneath,
Heaven's glories overhead!

But - I have seen them downwards dashed,
Down to a bloody grave;
And still thy ruthless eye has flashed,
Thy strong hand did not save!
I've seen some o'er the mountain's brow
Sustained a while by thee,
O'er rocks of ice and hills of snow
Bound fearless, wild, and free.

Bold and exultant was their mien
While thou didst cheer them on;
But evening fell - and then, I ween,
Their faithless guide was gone.
Alas! how fared thy favourites then
Lone, helpless, weary, cold
Did ever wanderer find again
The path he left of old?

Where is their glory, where the pride
That swelled their hearts before;
Where now the courage that defied
The mightiest tempest's roar?
What shall they do when night grows black,
When angry storms arise?
Who now will lead them to the track
Thou taught'st them to despise?

Spirit of Pride! it needs not this
To make me shun thy wiles,
Renounce thy triumph and thy bliss,
Thy honours and thy smiles.
Bright as thou art, and bold, and strong,
That fierce glance wins not me,
And I abhor thy scoffing tongue
I will not walk with thee!

Spirit of Faith! be thou my guide,
O, clasp my hand in thine,
And let me never quit thy side:
Thy comforts are divine!
Earth calls thee 'blind misguided one',
But who can show like thee
Past things that have been seen and done,
And things that are to be?

Secrets concealed from Nature's ken,
Who like thee can declare;
Or who like thee to erring men
God's holy will can bear?
Pride scorns thee for thy lowly mien;
But who like thee can rise
Above this restless, clouded scene,
Beyond the holy skies?

Meek is thine eye and soft thy voice
But wondrous is thy might
To make the wretched soul rejoice,
To give the simple light.
And still to all that seek thy way,
Such magic power is given
E'en while their footsteps press the clay
Their souls ascend to heaven.

Danger surrounds them, pain and woe
Their portion here must be;
But only they that trust thee know
What comfort dwells with thee,
Strength to sustain their drooping powers
And vigour to defend.
Thou pole-star of my darkest hours,
Affliction's firmest friend!

Day does not always mark our way;
Night's terrors oft appal,
But lead me, and I cannot stray;
Hold me: I shall not fall;
Sustain me, I shall never faint,
How rough soe'er may be
My upward road, - nor moan nor plaint
Shall mar my trust in thee.

Narrow the path by which we go;
And oft it turns aside,
From pleasant meads where roses blow
And murmuring waters glide;
Where flowery turf lies green and soft,
And gentle gales are sweet,
To where dark mountains frown aloft,
Hard rocks distress the feet.

Deserts beyond lie bleak and bare,
And keen winds round us blow;
But if thy hand conducts me there,
The way is right, I know.
I have no wish to turn away:
My spirit does not quail.
How can it while I hear thee say,
'Press forward - and prevail.'?

Even above the tempest's swell,
I hear thy voice of love.
Of hope and peace I hear thee tell,
And that blest home above.
Through pain and death, I can rejoice,
If but thy strength be mine.
Earth hath no music like thy voice;
Life owns no joy like thine!

Spirit of Faith! I'll go with thee:
Thou, if I hold thee fast,
Wilt guide, defend, and strengthen me,
And bring me home at last.
By thy help, all things I can do;
In thy strength all things bear.
Teach me, for thou art just and true,
Smile on me, - thou art fair!

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.