Jan. 6, 2001

The Visionary

by Emily Bronte

Broadcast date: SATURDAY, 6 January 2001

Poem: "The Visionary," by Emily Brontë.

Silent is the house: all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.

Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding-star.

Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame;
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.

What I love shall come like visitation of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay.

Burn, then, little lamp; glimmering straight and clear -
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.

It's the birthday of novelist E(dgar) L(aurence) Doctorow, born in New York City (1931), whose fiction takes readers back to relive important events and remarkable eras in American history. His books include The Book of Daniel (1971), Ragtime (1975), Loon Lake (1980), and Billy Bathgate (1989).

It's the birthday of author and photographer, Wright Morris, born in Central City, Nebraska (1910). His best known works include Field of Vision (1956), Love Among Cannibals (1957) and Plains Song: For Female Voices (1980).

It's the birthday of Icelandic poet Tómas Guðmundsson, born in Reykjavík, Iceland (1901).

It's the birthday of poet Carl Sandburg, born in Galesburg, Illinois (1878), the son of Swedish immigrants. He first gained notoriety with his poem, "Chicago," in 1914. His poetry collections include Chicago Poems (1915), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920). Sandburg also collected and published folk songs, wrote children's stories, and published a six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln.

It's the birthday of French military leader, Roman Catholic saint and national heroine Joan of Arc, known as "The Maid of Orleans," born in Domrémy, France (1412) to a peasant family. At the age of thirteen she began to hear voices and see visions she believed came from saints who urged her to embark on a divine mission to help Charles IV save the country from the English. The two countries were embroiled at that time in the Hundred Years War. Charles provided Joan with troops to lead into battle, and, dressed as a male soldier, her hair shorn, and carrying a white banner, she guided her troops to a decisive victory for France. At age 18, Joan was divinely led to embark on another campaign against the English at Compiégne, near Paris—this time without the support of Charles. She was captured by the Burgundian allies of the English, and was tried for heresy in Rouen, where she was burned in the Market Square in 1431, at the age of 19.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »