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July 25, 2007

Blog-a-Book: ’He that lives must mourn’

Prayinghands The titles of the two poems by Charlotte Brontë (author of Jane Eyre) in The Book of Uncommon Prayer tell a heartbreaking story: "On the Death of Anne Brontë" and "On the Death of Emily Brontë." In the space of about eight months, Charlotte's brother had died of alcohol- and drug-related illness, and both of her brilliant and beloved sisters, with whom she had lived and worked so closely, had died of tuberculosis. Two other sisters had died in childhood, and their mother had died when Charlotte was five. (Charlotte herself, the longest-lived of all her siblings, would die shortly before her fortieth birthday.)

The tragedies that overshadowed Charlotte's life grant a special power and poignancy to the lines that show her battered but unshaken faith (from the poem to Emily):

My darling, thou wilt never know
The grinding agony of woe
  That we have borne for thee.
Thus may we consolation tear
E'en from the depth of our despair
  And wasting misery. . . .

Then since thou art spared such pain
We will not wish thee here again;
  He that lives must mourn.
God help us through our misery
And give us rest and joy with thee
  When we reach our bourne!

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