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Mementos

Charlotte Brontë 1816 (Thornton, West Yorkshire) – 1855 (Haworth)

ARRANGING long-locked drawers and shelves
  Of cabinets, shut up for years,
What a strange task we've set ourselves !
  How still the lonely room appears !
How strange this mass of ancient treasures,
Mementos of past pains and pleasures;
These volumes, clasped with costly stone,
With print all faded, gilding gone;

These fans of leaves, from Indian trees­
These crimson shells, from Indian seas­
These tiny portraits, set in rings­
Once, doubtless, deemed such precious things;
Keepsakes bestowed by Love on Faith,
And worn till the receiver's death,
Now stored with cameos, china, shells,
In this old closet's dusty cells.

I scarcely think, for ten long years,
  A hand has touched these relics old;
And, coating each, slow-formed, appears,
  The growth of green and antique mould.

All in this house is mossing over;
  All is unused, and dim, and damp;
Nor light, nor warmth, the rooms discover­
  Bereft for years of fire and lamp.

The sun, sometimes in summer, enters
  The casements, with reviving ray;
But the long rains of many winters
  Moulder the very walls away.

And outside all is ivy, clinging
  To chimney, lattice, gable grey;
Scarcely one little red rose springing
  Through the green moss can force its way.

Unscared, the daw, and starling nestle,
  Where the tall turret rises high,
And winds alone come near to rustle
  The thick leaves where their cradles lie.

I sometimes think, when late at even
  I climb the stair reluctantly,
Some shape that should be well in heaven,
  Or ill elsewhere, will pass by me.

I fear to see the very faces,
  Familiar thirty years ago,
Even in the old accustomed places
  Which look so cold and gloomy now.

I've come, to close the window, hither,
  At twilight, when the sun was down,
And Fear, my very soul would wither,
  Lest something should be dimly shown.

Too much the buried form resembling,
  Of her who once was mistress here;
Lest doubtful shade, or moonbeam trembling,
  Might take her aspect, once so dear.

Hers was this chamber; in her time
  It seemed to me a pleasant room,
For then no cloud of grief or crime
  Had cursed it with a settled gloom;

I had not seen death's image laid
In shroud and sheet, on yonder bed.
  Before she married, she was blest­
Blest in her youth, blest in her worth;
  Her mind was calm, its sunny rest
Shone in her eyes more clear than mirth.

And when attired in rich array,
  Light, lustrous hair about her brow,
She yonder sat­a kind of day
  Lit up­what seems so gloomy now.
These grim oak walls, even then were grim;
  That old carved chair, was then antique;
But what around looked dusk and dim
  Served as a foil to her fresh cheek;
Her neck, and arms, of hue so fair,
  Eyes of unclouded, smiling, light;
Her soft, and curled, and floating hair,
  Gems and attire, as rainbow bright.

Reclined in yonder deep recess,
  Ofttimes she would, at evening, lie
Watching the sun; she seemed to bless
  With happy glance the glorious sky.
She loved such scenes, and as she gazed,
  Her face evinced her spirit's mood;
Beauty or grandeur ever raised
  In her, a deep-felt gratitude.

But of all lovely things, she loved
  A cloudless moon, on summer night;
Full oft have I impatience proved
  To see how long, her still delight
Would find a theme in reverie.
  Out on the lawn, or where the trees
Let in the lustre fitfully,
As their boughs parted momently,
  To the soft, languid, summer breeze.
Alas ! that she should e'er have flung
  Those pure, though lonely joys away­
Deceived by false and guileful tongue,
She gave her hand, then suffered wrong;
Oppressed, ill-used, she faded young,
  And died of grief by slow decay.

Open that casket­look how bright
Those jewels flash upon the sight;
The brilliants have not lost a ray
Of lustre, since her wedding day.
But see­upon that pearly chain­
How dim lies time's discolouring stain !
I've seen that by her daughter worn:
For, e'er she died, a child was born;
A child that ne'er its mother knew,
That lone, and almost friendless grew;
For, ever, when its step drew nigh,
Averted was the father's eye;
And then, a life impure and wild
Made him a stranger to his child;
Absorbed in vice, he little cared
On what she did, or how she fared.
The love withheld, she never sought,
S
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels are English literature standards. more…

All Charlotte Brontë poems | Charlotte Brontë Books

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    "Mementos" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 9 May 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/5517/mementos>.

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