By the time of Emily's funeral, on December 22 1848, Anne had already been ill for several weeks. By early January Patrick became so concerned at her condition that he called in a physician who was known to be an expert 'in consumptive cases'. Dr. Teale visited the Parsonage on 5 January to examine Anne: he diagnosed her condition as consumption, and intimated that it was quite advanced leaving little hope of recovery. Two days later (7 January) she began to write this poem. The poem presents us with a very stark picture of what Anne was feeling as she entered the greatest crisis of her life. Although she could not have realised it at the time, it was to be her last composition - and her final 'pillar of witness'. She had been given a death sentence, but her greatest fear was not of dying, but of losing her faith - and possibly giving in to cowardice; she was also concerned about how little she had achieved in her life. The first nine verses (printed here in black) were scribbled in pencil on that same day, and in these can be detected the great sense of helplessness and resignation to her fate:
'O Thou hast taken my delight
And hope of life away.'
The use of pencil for writing was unusual for Anne: Edward Chitham suggests it may indicate she was feeling too ill to sit at her writing-desk where ink would be available. The remainder of the poem was written in ink (printed here in blue) in several stages over the following three weeks: it was completed on January 28. Here, her will to live begins to shine through, and she gathers some hope of a reprieve:
'Whether thus early to depart
Or yet a while to wait.'
The poem is headed 'Jan 7th', and at the end she has written 'finished Jan. 28 1849'. It was published posthumously - in 1850, and Charlotte added the following notes:
'I have given the last memento of my sister Emily;
this is the last of my sister Anne:
These lines written, the desk was closed, the pen laid aside - for ever.'
The poem was originally untitled, but Charlotte later gave it the appropriate heading: 'Last Lines'.
(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.163 & p.195 134)
A dreadful darkness closes in
Through all this world of whelming
Weary I am -- O give me strength
I've begged to serve Thee heart
I hoped amid the brave and strong
But Thou hast fixed another part,
For Thou hast taken my delight
The hope and the delight were Thine;
Shall I with joy Thy blessings share
These weary hours will not be lost,
Weak and weary though I lie,
That inward strife against the sins
That secret labour to sustain
Thus let me serve Thee from my heart
If Thou shouldst bring me back to
Should Death be standing at the
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