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Featured Poem: The Night Is Darkening Round Me by Emily Bronte

Written by The Reader, 23rd January 2012

This week's Featured Poem has been chosen by Anna Fleming, Young People's Project Worker for Get Into Reading Liverpool, who has shared some Emily Bronte with some of the young people she reads with - and now, with us too.

As the nights were drawing in before Christmas I read the poem The Night is Darkening Round Me with several of the young people I read with. We loved it as a really atmospheric poem – the descriptions of the dark, wild weather are both exciting and menacing:

I enjoyed reading this poem and feeling the contrast between the wild descriptions and the forceful, insistent repetition: “I cannot go.”

There are so many possibilities to explore from this poem. The different ideas we had about where the person is were interesting and quite contentious! I imagine they are standing outside and unable to go home. A 12year old girl disagreed, saying she thought the person was stuck at home, safe, but unable to go where she needs to. A 14 year old lad suggested:

“it’s a ghost – they don’t feel the weather – but something means they’re stuck haunting that place.”

We tried to work out why the person might be unable to move: are they scared? Are they lost? Do they just love that spot? It conveys a very peculiar but particular state of mind, which is difficult to define and explain.

As well as exploring many possible stories behind the poem, some young people also recognised their own more strange experiences. A girl told me:

"thats like me, maybe something happened or they saw something then focussed on it and zoned out from everything else around."

The Night Is Darkening Round Me

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me,
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow;
The storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me:
I will not, cannot go.

Emily Bronte

3 thoughts on “Featured Poem: The Night Is Darkening Round Me by Emily Bronte

Colin says:

Fantastic to hear the responses of the youngsters to this poem. I can’t help comparing the TRO model to the clinical way I was ‘taught’ poetry a long time ago. Little wonder it took me so long to recover from the experience. There’s hope for the future…

Sam Shipman says:

I love that poem, really great to hear that is being shared with lots of young people, and their responses are really interesting.

Vic says:

I’d forgotten what a great poem this is for reading with youngsters, thanks for reminding me Anna. Have you ever read Prelude by T.S.Eliot with younger readers? A poem also good on atmosphere:

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

I love reading this in Care home settings too.

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