The manuscript of a poem by Charlotte Brontë is up for auction in London next month. Best known for her novel Jane Eyre, Brontë also wrote hundreds of poems during her lifetime. But an original manuscript in private hands is a rarity, and collectors are flocking to it. This despite the fact that the poem is, literally, quite small: Brontë, curiously, inscribed it on a 3 x 3-inch piece of paper.
Thankfully, the full text of the poem is available online (though it's mistakenly included in a collection of poems by Charlotte's sister Emily). Its subject is thoroughly Romantic: a young woman reflecting on the beauty and power in nature. It's reminiscent of Byron and Wordsworth -- two of Brontë's influences -- and the final image of the nightingale could come from Keats.
I've been wandering in the greenwoods,
And 'mid flowery, smiling plains;
I've been listening to the dark floods,
To the thrush's thrilling strains.
I have gathered the pale primrose,
And the purple violet sweet;
I've been where the asphodel grows,
And where lives the red deer fleet.
I've been to the distant mountain,
To the silver singing rill,
By the crystal murm'ring fountain,
And the shady, verdant hill.
I've been where the poplars springing
From the fair enamelled ground,
While the nightingale is singing
With a solemn, plaintive sound.
Considering that Brontë was just thirteen when she wrote these lines, they're remarkably accomplished. But this is a Brontë sister after all.
The Yorkshire Post speculates that a scarcity of paper necessitated the poem's small size (and it certainly helped that the Brontë sisters were nearsighted). But organizers doubt that size will affect the bidding. One of the Brontë's notebooks brought in £900,000 at auction last year, and this little poem is expected to net a big, big haul of £40,000 to £45,000.