“Caroline Helstone was just eighteen years old…”

A beautiful excerpt from Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley (and a beautiful Icelandic song by an teenager to match):

“Caroline Helstone was just eighteen years old, and at eighteen the true narrative of life is yet to be commenced. Before that time we sit listening to a tale, a marvelous fiction, delightful sometimes, and sad sometimes, almost always unreal. Beofre that time our world is heroic, its inhabitants halve divine or semi-demon; its scenes are dream-scenes; darker woods and stranger hill, brighter skies, more dangerous waters, sweeter flowers, more tempting fruits, wider plains, drearier deserts, sunnier fields than are found in nature, overspread our enchanted globe. What a moon we gaze on before that time!  How the trembling of our hearts at her aspect bears witness to its unutterable beauty! As to our sun, it is a burning heaven- the world of gods.

At that time, at eighteen, drawing near the confines of illusive, void dreams, Elf-land lies behind us, the shores of Reality rise in front. These shores are yet distant; they look so blue, soft, gentle, we long to reach them. In sunshine we see a greenness beneath the azure, as of spring meadows; we catch glimpses of silver lines, and imagine the roll of living waters. Could we but reach this land, we think to hunger thirst no more; whereas many a wilderness, and often the flood of death, or some stream of sorrow as cold and almost as black as death, is to be crossed ere true bliss can be tasted. Every joy that life gives must be earned ere it is secured; and how hardly earned, those only know who have wrestled for great prizes. The heart’s blood must gem with red beads the brow of the combatant, before the wreath of victory rustles over it.

At eighteen we are not aware of this. Hope, when she smiles on us, and promises happiness to-morrow, is implicitly believed; Love, when he comes wandering lie a lost angel to our door, is at once admitted, welcomed, embraced. His quiver is not seen; if his arrows penetrate, their wound is like a thrill of new life. There are no fears of poison, none of the barb which no leech’s hand can extract. That perilous passion- an agony ever in some of its phases; with many, an agony throughout- is believed to be an unqualified good. In short, at eighteen the school of experience is to be entered, and her humbling, crushing, grinding, but yet purifying and invigorating lessons are yet to be learned. ”

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2 thoughts on ““Caroline Helstone was just eighteen years old…”

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on Finishing Charlotte Brontë ‘s “Shirley” | Ezra Won't Shut Up

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