[God] is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we, too, are his offspring.’

Acts 17:27-28

My wife and I recently watched To Walk Invisible, the British television film about the Brontë family, and this poem was featured prominently. It is an amazing poem that is said to be the last thing that Emily Brontë wrote before her death (at the young age of 30 after a bout with tuberculosis). In that context, this poem becomes a fierce statement of her faith, a faith that is anchored in “the steadfast rock of Immortality,” and thus is a faith that arms her from fear, even as her death draws nigh.

As I ponder this poem, the words that I keep returning to are in the third stanza: “Vain are the thousand creeds / That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain, / worthless as withered weeds.” These words remind me that of a simple truth: creeds are not what save us. Creeds may give us the courage to die, but they don’t die for us. Creeds may help us learn who created us, but creeds are now what created us. The creeds we confess don’t love us, and they will not save us. When all of our creeds are gone, and the earth and the moon cease to be, what will be left? The One who is “Being and Breath,” in whom we, too, “live and move and have our being.”

Emily Dickinson thought so much of this poem that she requested it be read at her funeral. High praise indeed, and I can see why she would make that request: She wanted all in attendance to be reminded of the One in whom there is no room for Death, the One whose love is stronger than death, the One who, as Paul reminds us in Acts 17, “has given assurance to us all by raising [Jesus] from the dead” (Acts 17:31). With that assurance, why would our souls cower before anything in this world? “Wide-embracing love” is what awaits us all. Thanks be to God.

No Coward Soul Is Mine | Emily Brontë

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

2 thoughts on “No Coward Soul Is Mine | Emily Brontë

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you for sharing. I’ve been feeling weary, especially in mind. Bilbo Baggins said it best: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread” (Tolkien). These reminders of who our loving Father is and how others have stood strong in their faith in circumstances far worse than my own humble me to gratitude and praise.


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