56 Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“He Giveth his Beloved Sleep”
PSALM cxxvii. 2.
OF all the thoughts of God that are Borne inward unto souls afar, Along the Psalmist’s music deep, Now tell me if that any is, For gift or grace, surpassing this– ‘He giveth His beloved, sleep’!
What would we give to our beloved? The hero’s heart to [...]
But see, the Virgin blest Hath laid her babe to rest.
Sleep, sleep, mine Holy One! My flesh, my Lord!–what name? I do not know A name that seemeth not too high or low, Too far from me or heaven. My Jesus, that is best! that word being given By the majestic angel whose command [...]
She was not as pretty as women I know,And yet all your best made of sunshine and snowDrop to shade, melt to nought in the long-trodden ways,While she’s still remembered on warm and cold days–My Kate.
Her air had a meaning, her movements a grace;You turned from the fairest to gaze on her face:And when you [...]
WRITTEN IN ROME.
I am listening here in Rome.“England’s strong,” say many speakers,“If she winks, the Czar must come,Prow and topsail, to the breakers.”
“England’s rich in coal and oak,”Adds a Roman, getting moody;“If she shakes a travelling cloak,Down our Appian roll the scudi.”
“England’s righteous,” they rejoin:“Who shall grudge her exaltationsWhen her wealth of golden coinWorks the [...]
You love all, you say,Round, beneath, above me:Find me then some wayBetter than to love me,Me, too, dearest May!
O world-kissing eyesWhich the blue heavens melt to;I, sad, overwise,Loathe the sweet looks dealt toAll things–men and flies.
You love all, you say:Therefore, Dear, abate meJust your love, I pray!Shut your eyes and hate me–Only me–fair May!
Enough! we’re tired, my heart and I.We sit beside the headstone thus,And wish that name were carved for us.The moss reprints more tenderlyThe hard types of the mason’s knife,As heaven’s sweet life renews earth’s lifeWith which we’re tired, my heart and I.
You see we’re tired, my heart and I.We dealt with books, we trusted men,And [...]
Fair Amy of the terraced house,Assist me to discoverWhy you who would not hurt a mouseCan torture so your lover.
You give your coffee to the cat,You stroke the dog for coming,And all your face grows kinder atThe little brown bee’s humming.
But when he haunts your door … the townMarks coming and marks going …You seem [...]
What’s the best thing in the world?June-rose, by May-dew impearled;Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;Truth, not cruel to a friend;Pleasure, not in haste to end;Beauty, not self-decked and curledTill its pride is over-plain;Light, that never makes you wink;Memory, that gives no pain;Love, when, so, you’re loved again.What’s the best thing in the world?–Something out of [...]
Nay, if I had come back so,And found her dead in her grave,And if a friend I knowHad said, “Be strong, nor rave:She lies there, dead below:
“I saw her, I who speak,White, stiff, the face one blank:The blue shade came to her cheekBefore they nailed the plank,For she had been dead a week.”
Why, if he [...]
I heard an angel speak last night,And he said “Write!Write a Nation’s curse for me,And send it over the Western Sea.”
I faltered, taking up the word:“Not so, my lord!If curses must be, choose anotherTo send thy curse against my brother.
“For I am bound by gratitude,By love and blood,To brothers of mine across the sea,Who stretch [...]
Dead! Thirteen a month ago!Short and narrow her life’s walk;Lover’s love she could not knowEven by a dream or talk:Too young to be glad of youth,Missing honour, labour, rest,And the warmth of a babe’s mouthAt the blossom of her breast.Must you pity her for thisAnd for all the loss it is,You, her mother, with wet [...]
Because ye have broken your own chainWith the strainOf brave men climbing a Nation’s height,Yet thence bear down with brand and thongOn souls of others,–for this wrongThis is the curse. Write.
Because yourselves are standing straightIn the stateOf Freedom’s foremost acolyte,Yet keep calm footing all the timeOn writhing bond-slaves,–for this crimeThis is the curse. Write.
Because ye [...]
Sweet, thou hast trod on a heart.Pass; there’s a world full of men;And women as fair as thou artMust do such things now and then.
Thou only hast stepped unaware,–Malice, not one can impute;And why should a heart have been thereIn the way of a fair woman’s foot?
It was not a stone that could trip,Nor was [...]
Sleep, little babe, on my knee,Sleep, for the midnight is chill,And the moon has died out in the tree,And the great human world goeth ill.Sleep, for the wicked agree:Sleep, let them do as they will.Sleep.
Sleep, thou hast drawn from my breastThe last drop of milk that was good;And now, in a dream, suck the rest,Lest [...]
The cypress stood up like a churchThat night we felt our love would hold,And saintly moonlight seemed to searchAnd wash the whole world clean as gold;The olives crystallized the vales’Broad slopes until the hills grew strong:The fire-flies and the nightingalesThrobbed each to either, flame and song.The nightingales, the nightingales!
Upon the angle of its shadeThe cypress [...]
“But why do you go?” said the lady, while both sat under the yew,And her eyes were alive in their depth, as the kraken beneath the sea-blue.
“Because I fear you,” he answered;–”because you are far too fair,And able to strangle my soul in a mesh of your gold-coloured hair.”
“Oh, that,” she said, “is no reason! [...]
Emperor, Emperor!From the centre to the shore,From the Seine back to the Rhine,Stood eight millions up and sworeBy their manhood’s right divineSo to elect and legislate,This man should renew the lineBroken in a strain of fateAnd leagued kings at Waterloo,When the people’s hands let go.EmperorEvermore.
With a universal shoutThey took the old regalia outFrom an open [...]
Her hair was tawny with gold, her eyes with purple were dark,Her cheeks’ pale opal burnt with a red and restless spark.
Never was lady of Milan nobler in name and in race;Never was lady of Italy fairer to see in the face.
Never was lady on earth more true as woman and wife,Larger in judgment and [...]
TOLD IN TUSCANY.
My little son, my Florentine,Sit down beside my knee,And I will tell you why the signOf joy which flushed our ItalyHas faded since but yesternight;And why your Florence of delightIs mourning as you see.
A great man (who was crowned one day)Imagined a great Deed:He shaped it out of cloud and clay,He touched it [...]
“Una voce augusta.”– Monitore Toscano.
You’ll take back your Grand-duke?I made the treaty upon it.Just venture a quiet rebuke;Dall’ Ongaro write him a sonnet;Ricasoli gently explainSome need of the constitution:He’ll swear to it over again,Providing an “easy solution.”You’ll call back the Grand-duke.
You’ll take back your Grand-duke?I promised the Emperor FrancisTo argue the case by his book,And [...]
Florence, Bologna, Parma, Modena:When you named them a year ago,So many graves reserved by God, in aDay of Judgment, you seemed to know,To open and let out the resurrection.
And meantime (you made your reflectionIf you were English), was nought to be doneBut sorting sables, in predilectionFor all those martyrs dead and gone,Till the new earth [...]
hos basilei, hos theps, hos nekrps.—GREGORY NAZIANZEN.
The Pope on Christmas DaySits in Saint Peter’s chair;But the peoples murmur and say“Our souls are sick and forlorn,And who will show us whereIs the stable where Christ was born?”
The star is lost in the dark;The manger is lost in the straw;The Christ cries faintly … hark!…Through bands that [...]
Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours!I will not gainsay love, called love forsooth.I have heard love talked in my early youth,And since, not so long back but that the flowersThen gathered, smell still. Mussulmans and GiaoursThrow kerchiefs at a smile, and have no ruthFor any weeping. Polypheme’s white toothSlips on [...]
I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to allWho paused a little near the prison-wallTo hear my music in its louder partsEre they went onward, each one to the mart’sOr temple’s occupation, beyond call.But thou, who, in my voice’s sink and fallWhen the sob [...]
” My future will not copy fair my past “–I wrote that once; and thinking at my sideMy ministering life-angel justifiedThe word by his appealing look upcastTo the white throne of God, I turned at last,And there, instead, saw thee, not unalliedTo angels in thy soul! Then I, long triedBy natural ills, received the [...]
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.I love thee to the depth and breadth and heightMy soul can reach, when feeling out of sightFor the ends of Being and ideal Grace.I love thee to the level of everyday’sMost quiet need, by sun and candlelight.I love thee freely, as men strive for [...]
A POEM IN TWO PARTS
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.
This poem contains the impressions of the writer upon events in Tuscany of which she was a witness. “From a window,” the critic may demur. She bows to the objection in the very title of her work. No continuous narrative nor exposition of political philosophy is attempted [...]
Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowersPlucked in the garden, all the summer throughAnd winter, and it seemed as if they grewIn this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.So, in the like name of that love of ours,Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,And which on warm and cold days I [...]
The first time that the sun rose on thine oathTo love me, I looked forward to the moonTo slacken all those bonds which seemed too soonAnd quickly tied to make a lasting troth.Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;And, looking on myself, I seemed not oneFor such man’s love!–more like an out-of-tuneWorn viol, a [...]
With the same heart, I said, I’ll answer theeAs those, when thou shalt call me by my name–Lo, the vain promise! is the same, the same,Perplexed and ruffled by life’s strategy?When called before, I told how hastilyI dropped my flowers or brake off from a game,To run and answer with the smile that cameAt [...]
Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hearThe name I used to run at, when a child,From innocent play, and leave the cowslips piled,To glance up in some face that proved me dearWith the look of its eyes. I miss the clearFond voices which, being drawn and reconciledInto the music of Heaven’s undefiled,Call [...]
If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchangeAnd be all to me? Shall I never missHome-talk and blessing and the common kissThat comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,When I look up, to drop on a new rangeOf walls and floors, another home than this?Nay, wilt thou fill that place by [...]
Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make,Of all that strong divineness which I knowFor thine and thee, an image only soFormed of the sand, and fit to shift and break.It is that distant years which did not takeThy sovranty, recoiling with a blow,Have forced my swimming brain to undergoTheir doubt and dread, and [...]
When we met first and loved, I did not buildUpon the event with marble. Could it meanTo last, a love set pendulous betweenSorrow and sorrow? Nay, I rather thrilled,Distrusting every light that seemed to gildThe onward path, and feared to overleanA finger even. And, though I have grown sereneAnd strong since then, I think [...]
First time he kissed me, he but only kissedThe fingers of this hand wherewith I write;And ever since, it grew more clean and white,Slow to world-greetings, quick with its “Oh, list,”When the angels speak. A ring of amethystI could not wear here, plainer to my sight,Than that first kiss. The second passed in heightThe [...]
Because thou hast the power and own’st the graceTo look through and behind this mask of me(Against which years have beat thus blanchinglyWith their rains), and behold my soul’s true face,The dim and weary witness of life’s race,–Because thou hast the faith and love to see,Through that same soul’s distracting lethargy,The patient angel waiting [...]
A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borneFrom year to year until I saw thy face,And sorrow after sorrow took the placeOf all those natural joys as lightly wornAs the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turnBy a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apaceWere changed to long despairs, till God’s own graceCould scarcely lift above [...]
Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife,Shut in upon itself and do no harmIn this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,And let us hear no sound of human strifeAfter the click of the shutting. Life to life–I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm,And feel as safe as guarded by a charmAgainst [...]
I lived with visions for my companyInstead of men and women, years ago,And found them gentle mates, nor thought to knowA sweeter music than they played to me.But soon their trailing purple was not freeOf this world’s dust, their lutes did silent grow,And I myself grew faint and blind belowTheir vanishing eyes. Then THOU [...]
My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!And yet they seem alive and quiveringAgainst my tremulous hands which loose the stringAnd let them drop down on my knee to-night.This said,–he wished to have me in his sightOnce, as a friend: this fixed a day in springTo come and touch my hand … a simple [...]
My own Beloved, who hast lifted meFrom this drear flat of earth where I was thrown,And, in betwixt the languid ringlets, blownA life-breath, till the forehead hopefullyShines out again, as all the angels see,Before thy saving kiss! My own, my own,Who camest to me when the world was gone,And I who looked for only [...]
I think of thee!–my thoughts do twine and budAbout thee, as wild vines, about a tree,Put out broad leaves, and soon there’s nought to seeExcept the straggling green which hides the wood.Yet, O my palm-tree, be it understoodI will not have my thoughts instead of theeWho art dearer, better! Rather, instantlyRenew thy presence; as [...]
I see thine image through my tears to-night,And yet to-day I saw thee smiling. HowRefer the cause?–Beloved, is it thouOr I, who makes me sad? The acolyteAmid the chanted joy and thankful riteMay so fall flat, with pale insensate brow,On the altar-stair. I hear thy voice and vow,Perplexed, uncertain, since thou art out of [...]
Thou comest! all is said without a word.I sit beneath thy looks, as children doIn the noon-sun, with souls that tremble throughTheir happy eyelids from an unaverredYet prodigal inward joy. Behold, I erredIn that last doubt! and yet I cannot rueThe sin most, but the occasion–that we twoShould for a moment stand unministeredBy a [...]
And yet, because thou overcomest so,Because thou art more noble and like a king,Thou canst prevail against my fears and flingThy purple round me, till my heart shall growToo close against thine heart henceforth to knowHow it shook when alone. Why, conqueringMay prove as lordly and complete a thingIn lifting upward, as in crushing [...]
My poet, thou canst touch on all the notesGod set between His After and Before,And strike up and strike off the general roarOf the rushing worlds a melody that floatsIn a serene air purely. AntidotesOf medicated music, answering forMankind’s forlornest uses, thou canst pourFrom thence into their ears. God’s will devotesThine to such ends, [...]
The soul’s Rialto hath its merchandise;I barter curl for curl upon that mart,And from my poet’s forehead to my heartReceive this lock which outweighs argosies,–As purply black, as erst to Pindar’s eyesThe dim purpureal tresses gloomed athwartThe nine white Muse-brows. For this counterpart, …The bay-crown’s shade, Beloved, I surmise,Still lingers on thy curl, it [...]
I never gave a lock of hair awayTo a man, Dearest, except this to thee,Which now upon my fingers thoughtfully,I ring out to the full brown length and say“Take it.” My day of youth went yesterday;My hair no longer bounds to my foot’s glee,Nor plant I it from rose or myrtle-tree,As girls do, any [...]
Beloved, my Beloved, when I thinkThat thou wast in the world a year ago,What time I sat alone here in the snowAnd saw no footprint, heard the silence sinkNo moment at thy voice, but, link by link,Went counting all my chains as if that soThey never could fall off at any blowStruck by thy [...]
Say over again, and yet once over again,That thou dost love me. Though the word repeatedShould seem “a cuckoo-song,” as thou dost treat it.Remember, never to the hill or plain,Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strainComes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.Beloved, I, amid the darkness greetedBy a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s [...]
When our two souls stand up erect and strong,Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,Until the lengthening wings break into fireAt either curved point,–what bitter wrongCan the earth do to us, that we should not longBe here contented? Think. In mounting higher,The angels would press on us and aspireTo drop some golden orb [...]
Is it indeed so? If I lay here dead,Wouldst thou miss any life in losing mine?And would the sun for thee more coldly shineBecause of grave-damps falling round my head?I marvelled, my Beloved, when I readThy thought so in the letter. I am thine–But … so much to thee? Can I pour thy wineWhile [...]
Indeed this very love which is my boast,And which, when rising up from breast to brow,Doth crown me with a ruby large enowTo draw men’s eyes and prove the inner cost,–This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost,I should not love withal, unless that thouHadst set me an example, shown me how,When first [...]
If thou must love me, let it be for noughtExcept for love’s sake only. Do not say“I love her for her smile–her look–her wayOf speaking gently,–for a trick of thoughtThat falls in well with mine, and certes broughtA sense of pleasant ease on such a day”–For these things in themselves, Beloved, mayBe changed, or [...]
And wilt thou have me fashion into speechThe love I bear thee, finding words enough,And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,Between our faces, to cast light on each?–I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teachMy hand to hold my spirit so far offFrom myself–me–that I should bring thee proofIn words, [...]
Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wearToo calm and sad a face in front of thine;For we two look two ways, and cannot shineWith the same sunlight on our brow and hair.On me thou lookest with no doubting care,As on a bee shut in a crystalline;Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love’s [...]