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SPIRIT OF THE WILDERNESS

Set by John Mitchell (1941-) op. 71 (1989), from Seven Journeys to Earth, part 3, no. 5.
Text by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)


How deep into the wilderness
My horse had strayed, I cannot say
But neither morsel nor caress
Would urge him farther on the way

So loosening from his neck the rein
I set my worn companion free
And billowy hill and boundless plain
Full soon divided him from me

The sullen clouds lay all unbroken
And blackening round the horizon drear
But still they gave no certain token
Of heavy rain or tempests near

I paused confounded and distressed
Down in the heath my limbs I threw
Yet wilder as I longed for rest
More wakeful heart and eyelids grew

It was about the middle night
And under such a starless dome
When gliding from the mountain's height
I saw a shadowy spirit come

Her wavy hair on her shoulders bare
It shone like soft clouds round the moon
Her noiseless feet like melting sleet
Gleamed white a moment then were gone

'What seek you now on this bleak moor's brow
Where wanders that form from heaven descending?'
It was thus I said as her graceful head
The spirit above my couch was bending

'This is my home where whirlwinds blow
Where snowdrifts round my path are swelling
'Tis many a year 'tis long ago
Since I beheld another dwelling

'When thick and fast the smothering blast
O'erwhelmed the hunter on the plain
If my cheek grew pale in its loudest gale
May I never tread the hills again

'The shepherd had died on the mountainside
But my ready aid was near him then
I led him back o'er the hidden track
And gave him to his native glen

'When tempests roar on the lonely shore
I light my beacon with sea-weeds dry
And it flings its fire through the darkness dire
And gladdens the sailor's hopeless eye

'And the scattered sheep I love to keep
Their timid forms to guard from harm
I have a spell and they know it well
And I save them with a powerful charm

'Thy own good steed on his friendless bed
A few hours since you left to die
But I knelt by his side and the saddle untied
And life returned to his glazing eye

'And deem thou not that quite forgot
My mercy will forsake me now
I bring thee care and not Despair
Abasement but not overthrow

'To a silent home thy foot may come
And years may follow of toilsome pain
But yet I swear by that Burning Tear
The loved shall meet on its hearth again'


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