Night by Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë was famous in her own time as in the present for her remarkable literary skill that enabled her to express intense emotions in simple forms, despite her being, by all reports, a fairly quiet individual herself. Night is a perfect example of this form of poetry that she excelled at, as well as being one of her many mourning, romantic poems that have been the source of much speculation throughout the years. As it stands on its own, Night is evocative, emotional, and insightful, and while it is linked to the rest of Brontë’s library of work thematically, it certainly holds its ground as a strong example of her talents.


Night Analysis

I love the silent hour of night,

For blissful dreams may then arise,

Revealing to my charmed sight

What may not bless my waking eyes!

And then a voice may meet my ear

That death has silenced long ago;

And hope and rapture may appear

Instead of solitude and woe.

Cold in the grave for years has lain

The form it was my bliss to see,

And only dreams can bring again

The darling of my heart to me.

The course of Night follows the speaker contemplating the power of nighttime in contrast to the day. The narrator — presumably Anne Brontë herself — expresses a very specific emotion that the nighttime brings out. It is a strange combination of solitude, loneliness, and comfort, coupled with what appears to be heartsickness. It is a complicated poem, for all its simplicity, because of how intensely it examines the emotion. It is written in a simple alternating rhyme pattern (ABAB-CDCD-EFEF), and can be broken up into three quatrains, though the first two are written as a single verse.

I love the silent hour of night,

For blissful dreams may then arise,

There is a distinct difference between daydreaming and dreaming at night; at night, of course, dreams are more vivid, and typically, for a brief time, the dreamer believes that the dream is itself reality. That the night is “silent” is important — it means there are no distractions to pull the dreamer awake. Another important word choice here is “may;” even though the dreams are not always blissful, they are still worth looking forward to, because sometimes — just sometimes — they are.

Revealing to my charmed sight

What may not bless my waking eyes!

And then a voice may meet my ear

That death has silenced long ago;

In these dreams, the idea is to see with “charmed eyes,” which is to say eyes that are not seeing the real world, something that no longer exists outside of the dream. Dreams can recapture the past, and bring to life the dead, which is exactly what is happening here. The voice in the dream belongs to a person who died a long time before the dream took place, but still the dreamer waits, every night, for the chance to hear it again and remember perfectly what it sounded like in life.

And hope and rapture may appear

Instead of solitude and woe.

These lines suggest that the deceased individual was a loved one, because the purpose of the dreaming is revealed to be to replace feelings of solitude and woe with those of hope and rapture. “Rapture” is a word with two meanings: it can refer to an intense sensation of joy, or it can refer to the biblical Second Coming of Christ. That the subject of this dream is dead suggests that perhaps their presence in the dream is a kind of “second coming,” and that by appearing in a dream, they are returning to life, briefly, to be with their loved one in whatever capacity is possible.

Cold in the grave for years has lain

The form it was my bliss to see,

And only dreams can bring again

The darling of my heart to me.

Here at the end of the poem, it is confirmed that the subject of the dream is a lost loved one, a darling of the heart who has passed away in reality. “The form is was my bliss to see” is an especially touching line, highlighting the loneliness of the speaker, who could be made happy simply by looking at this person who once “blessed their waking eyes.” Now that death has taken them away, however, there is nothing left of them except in dreams, and the power of those dreams is enough to sustain the speaker, even in their deepest loneliness, because they can love the silent hour of the night, and wait.


Historical Context

Anne Brontë wrote Night in 1845, when she was twenty-five years of age, long after her sheltered upbringing inspired her literary career. It was published, notably, only three years after the death of William Weightman, who was the assistant to her father’s parish. He was close in his age to her own and had a good relationship with the Brontë family. A number of romantic poems written by Anne around the time the two met caused speculation that she fell in love with him, though it is likely that he either never knew of her feelings, or did not reciprocate them — if they existed at all.

Still, when Weightman passed away in 1842, Brontë experienced great grief over his death, and several of her poems following the incident had a mournful tone. In particular, I Will Not Mourn Thee, Lovely One was written shortly afterwards and expresses Anne’s sadness at Weigtman’s passing, referring to him as “our darling.” Notably, Night also refers to “The darling of my heart,” suggesting that the two poems may refer to the same individual. If so, it is likely that this poem was written in remembrance of Weightman.

Unfortunately, very little is definitively known about the subject of Anne Brontë’s works. The timing of I Will Not Mourn Thee, Lovely One and Night coincide with Weightman’s death only — the tragedy that took Anne’s eldest sisters was further in the past, and the deaths of two more of her siblings had not yet happened. It is likely that Night was written for Weightman — but since even the attraction Anne held for him is only speculation, it is difficult to say for certain.

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Related poetry:   A Prisoner in a Dungeon Deep by Anne Brontë

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