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A Collection of Short Poems and Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Below you'll find a variety of shorter poems and sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Our presentation of these classic poems comes from The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1900).

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.


Visit these other works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"Bertha in the Lane"
"Christmas Gifts"
"The Complaint of Annelida to False Arcite"
"Crowned and Buried"
"The Dead Pan"
"Earth and her Praisers"
"An Island"
"The Lay of the Brown Rosary"
"A Lay of the Early Rose"
"The Lost Bower"

"Napoleon III in Italy"
"Night and the Merry Man"
"A Rhapsody of Life's Progress"
"Rhyme of the Duchess May"
"A Romance of the Ganges"
"The Romaunt of the Page"
"The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point"
"The Virgin Mary to the Child Jesus"
"A Vision of Poets"


Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, poem or story.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain eBooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a classic poem or short story for use in the classroom.

NOTE: We try to present these classic poetic works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.


"Adequacy" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

ADEQUACY

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Now, by the verdure on thy thousand hills,
Beloved England, doth the earth appear
Quite good enough for men to overbear
The will of God in, with rebellious wills!
We cannot say the morning-sun fulfils
Ingloriously its course, nor that the clear
Strong stars without significance insphere
Our habitation: we, meantime, our ills
Heap up against this good and lift a cry
Against this work-day world, this ill-spread feast,
As if ourselves were better certainly
Than what we come to. Maker and High Priest,
I ask thee not my joys to multiply, --
Only to make me worthier of the least.


"An Apprehension" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

AN APPREHENSION

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

IF all the gentlest-hearted friends I know
Concentred in one heart their gentleness,
That still grew gentler till its pulse was less
For life than pity, -- I should yet be slow
To bring my own heart nakedly below
The palm of such a friend, that he should press
Motive, condition, means, appliances,
My false ideal joy and fickle woe,
Out full to light and knowledge; I should fear
Some plait between the brows, some rougher chime
In the free voice. O angels, let your flood
Of bitter scorn dash on me! do ye hear
What I say who bear calmly all the time
This everlasting face to face with GOD?


"Bereavement" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

BEREAVEMENT

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When some Beloveds, 'neath whose eyelids lay
The sweet lights of my childhood, one by one
Did leave me dark before the natural sun,
And I astonied fell, and could not pray, --
A thought within me to myself did say,
'Is God less God, that thou art left undone?
Rise, worship, bless Him, in this sackcloth spun,
As in that purple!' -- But I answered Nay!
What child his filial heart in words can loose,
If he behold his tender father raise
The hand that chastens sorely? can he choose
But sob in silence with an upward gaze? --
And my great Father, thinking fit to bruise,
Discerns in speechless tears, both prayer and praise.


2
"The Best Thing in the World"

THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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 curled
Till 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 it, I think.


"A Child's Thought of God"

A CHILD'S THOUGHT OF GOD

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

They say that God lives very high;
But if you look above the pines
You cannot see our God; and why?

And if you dig down in the mines
You never see Him in the gold;
Though from Him all that's glory shines.

God is so good, He wears a fold
Of heaven and earth across His face --
Like secrets kept, for love, untold.

But still I feel that His embrace
Slides down by thrills, through all things made,
Through sight and sound of every place:

As if my tender mother laid
On my shut lids her kisses' pressure,
Half-waking me at night, and said
'Who kissed you through the dark, dear guesser?'


"Comfort" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

COMFORT

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Speak low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet
From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee so
Who art not missed by any that entreat.
Speak to me as to Mary at thy feet!
And if no precious gums my hands bestow,
Let my tears drop like amber while I go
In reach of thy divinest voice complete
In humanest affection -- thus, in sooth,
To lose the sense of losing. As a child,
Whose song-bird seeks the wood for evermore,
Is sung to in its stead by mother's mouth
Till, sinking on her breast, love-reconciled,
He sleeps the faster that he wept before.


"Consolation" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

CONSOLATION

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

All are not taken; there are left behind
Living Beloveds, tender looks to bring
And make the daylight still a happy thing,
And tender voices, to make soft the wind:
But if it were not so -- if I could find
No love in all the world for comforting,
Nor any path but hollowly did ring,
Where 'dust to dust' the love from life disjoined,
And if, before those sepulchres unmoving
I stood alone, (as some forsaken lamb
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth,)
Crying 'Where are ye, O my loved and loving?' --
I know a Voice would sound, 'Daughter, I AM.
Can I suffice for HEAVEN, and not for earth?'


"Discontent" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

DISCONTENT

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Light human nature is too lightly tost
And ruffled without cause, complaining on --
Restless with rest, until, being overthrown,
It learneth to lie quiet. Let a frost
Or a small wasp have crept to the inner-most
Of our ripe peach, or let the wilful sun
Shine westward of our window, -- straight we run
A furlong's sigh as if the world were lost.
But what time through the heart and through the brain
God hath transfixed us, -- we, so moved before,
Attain to a calm. Ay, shouldering weights of pain,
We anchor in deep waters, safe from shore,
And hear submissive o'er the stormy main
God's chartered judgments walk for evermore.


"Finite and Infinite" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
0
FINITE AND INFINITE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The wind sounds only in opposing straits,
The sea, beside the shore; man's spirit rends
Its quiet only up against the ends
Of wants and oppositions, loves and hates,
Where, worked and worn by passionate debates,
And losing by the loss it apprehends,
The flesh rocks round and every breath it sends
Is ravelled to a sigh. All tortured states
Suppose a straightened place. Jehovah Lord,
Make room for rest, around me! Out of sight
Now float me of the vexing land abhorred,
Till in deep calms of space my soul may right
Her nature, shoot large sail on lengthening cord,
And rush exultant on the Infinite.


"Flush or Faunus" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
1
FLUSH OR FAUNUS

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

You see this dog; it was but yesterday
I mused forgetful of his presence here,
Till thought on thought drew downward tear on tear:
When from the pillow where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head as hairy as Faunus thrust its way
Right sudden against my face, two golden-clear
Great eyes astonished mine, a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek to dry the spray!
I started first as some Arcadian
Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove:
But as the bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness, -- thanking the true PAN
Who by low creatures leads to heights of love.


"Futurity" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
2
FUTURITY

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And, O beloved voices, upon which
Ours passionately call because erelong
Ye brake off in the middle of that song
We sang together softly, to enrich
The poor world with the sense of love, and witch
The heart out of things evil, -- I am strong,
Knowing ye are not lost for aye among
The hills, with last year's thrush. God keeps a niche
In Heaven to hold our idols; and albeit
He brake them to our faces and denied
That our close kisses should impair their white,
I know we shall behold them raised, complete,
The dust swept from their beauty, -- glorified
New Memnons singing in the great God-light.


"Grief" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
3
GRIEF

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death --
Most like a monumental statue set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:
If it could weep, it could arise and go.


"Heaven and Earth" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
4
HEAVEN AND EARTH

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"And there was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour."

First printed in Blackwood, May, 1847.

God, who, with thunders and great voices kept
Beneath thy throne, and stars most silver-paced
Along the inferior gyres, and open-faced
Melodious angels round, canst intercept
Music with music, -- yet, at will, has swept
All back, all back (said he in Patmos placed),
To fill the heavens with silence of the waste
Which lasted half an hour! Lo, I who have wept
All day and night, beseech Thee by my tears.
And by that dread response of curse and groan
Men alternate across these hemispheres,
Vouchsafe us such a half-hour's hush alone,
In compensation for our stormy years:
As heaven has paused from song, let earth from moan!


"Hiram Powers' Greek Slave"
5
HIRAM POWERS' "GREEK SLAVE"

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

[The American sculptor, Hiram Powers, and his family were among the few intimate friends of the Brownings during their first years in Florence.]

They say Ideal Beauty cannot enter
The house of anguish. On the threshold stands
An alien Image with enshackled hands,
Called the Greek Slave! as if the artist meant her
(That passionless perfection which he lent her,
Shadowed not darkened where the sill expands)
To so confront man's crimes in different lands
With man's ideal sense. Pierce to the centre,
Art's fiery finger, and break up ere long
The serfdom of this world. Appeal, fair stone,
From God's pure heights of beauty against man's wrong!
Catch up in thy divine face, not alone
East griefs but west, and strike and shame tlie strong,
By thunders of white silence, overthrown.


"Hugh Stuart Boyd -- His Blindness"
6
HUGH STUART BOYD -- HIS BLINDNESS

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

God would not let the spheric lights accost
This God-loved man, and bade the earth stand off
With all her beckoning hills whose golden stuff
Under the feet of the royal sun is crossed.
Yet such things were to him not wholly lost, --
Permitted, with his wandering eyes light-proof,
To catch fair visions rendered full enough
By many a ministrant accomplished ghost, --
Still seeing, to sounds of softly-turned book-leaves,
Sappho's crown-rose, and Meleager's Spring,
And Gregory's starlight on Greek-burnished eves:
Till Sensuous and Unsensuous seemed one thing,
Viewed from one level, -- earth's reapers at the sheaves
Scarce plainer than Heaven's angels on the wing!


"Hugh Stuart Boyd -- His Death, 1848"
7
HUGH STUART BOYD -- HIS DEATH, 1848

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

To whom was inscribed, in grateful affection, my poem of 'Cyprus Wine.' There comes a moment in life when even gratitude and affection turn to pain, as they do now with me. This excellent and learned man, enthusiastic for the good and the beautiful, and one of the most simple and upright of human beings, passed out of his long darkness through death in the summer of 1848; Dr. Adam Clarke's daughter and biographer, Mrs. Smith (happier in this than the absent), fulfilling a doubly filial duty as she sat by the death-bed of her father's friend and hers. -- E. B. B.

Beloved friend, who living many years
With sightless eyes raised vainly to the sun,
Didst learn to keep thy patient soul in tune
To visible nature's elemental cheers!
God has not caught thee to new hemispheres
Because thou wast aweary of this one; --
I think thine angel's patience first was done,
And that he spake out with celestial tears,
'Is it enough, dear God? then lighten so
This soul that smiles in darkness!'
Steadfast friend,
Who never didst my heart or life mis-know,
Nor either's faults too keenly apprehend, --
How can I wonder when I see thee go
To join the Dead found faithful to the end?


"Hugh Stuart Boyd -- Legacies"
8
HUGH STUART BOYD -- LEGACIES

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Three gifts the Dying left me, -- Aeschylus,
And Gregory Nazianzen, and a clock
Chiming the gradual hours out like a flock
Of stars whose motion is melodious.
The books were those I used to read from, thus
Assisting my dear teacher's soul to unlock
The darkness of his eyes; now, mine they mock,
Blinded in turn by tears; now, murmurous
Sad echoes of my young voice, years agone
Intoning from these leaves the Grecian phrase,
Return and choke my utterance. Books, lie down
In silence on the shelf there, within gaze;
And thou, clock, striking the hour's pulses on,
Chime in the day which ends these parting days!


"Inclusions" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
9
INCLUSIONS

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

Oh, wilt thou have my hand, Dear, to lie along in thine?
As a little stone in a running stream, it seems to lie and pine.
Now drop the poor pale hand, Dear, unfit to plight with thine.

II

Oh, wilt thou have my cheek, Dear, drawn closer to thine own?
My cheek is white, my cheek is worn, by many a tear run down.
Now leave a little space, Dear, lest it should wet thine own.

III

Oh, must thou have my soul, Dear, commingled with thy soul? --
Red grows the cheek, and warm the hand; the part is in the whole:
Nor hands nor cheeks keep separate, when soul is joined to soul.


"Insufficiency" (Poems of 1844)
0
INSUFFICIENCY

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When I attain to utter forth in verse
Some inward thought, my soul throbs audibly
Along my pulses, yearning to be free
And something farther, fuller, higher, rehearse,
To the individual, true, and the universe,
In consummation of right harmony:
But, like a wind-exposed distorted tree,
We are blown against for ever by the curse
Which breathes through Nature. Oh, the world is weak!
The effluence of each is false to all,
And what we best conceive we fail to speak.
Wait, soul, until thine ashen garments fall,
And then resume thy broken strains, and seek
Fit peroration without let or thrall.


"Insufficiency" (Poems of 1850)
1
INSUFFICIENCY

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

There is no one beside thee and no one above thee,
Thou standest alone as the nightingale sings!
And my words that would praise thee are impotent things,
For none can express thee though all should approve thee.
I love thee so, Dear, that I only can love thee.

II

Say, what can I do for thee? weary thee, grieve thee?
Lean on thy shoulder, new burdens to add?
Weep my tears over thee, making thee sad?
Oh, hold me not -- love me not! let me retrieve thee.
I love thee so, Dear, that I only can leave thee.


"The King's Gift" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
2
THE KING'S GIFT

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

Teresa, ah, Teresita!
Now what has the messenger brought her,
Our Garibaldi's young daughter,
To make her stop short in her singing?
Will she not once more repeat a
Verse from that hymn of our hero's,
Setting the souls of us ringing?
Break off the song where the tear rose?
Ah, Teresita!

II

A young thing, mark, is Teresa:
Her eyes have caught fire, to be sure, in
That necklace of jewels from Turin,
Till blind their regard to us men is.
But still she remembers to raise a
Sly look at her father, and note --
'Could she sing on as well about Venice,
Yet wear such a frame at her throat?
Decide for Teresa.'

III

Teresa, ah, Teresita!
His right hand has paused on her head --
'Accept it, my daughter,' he said;
'Ay, wear it, true child of thy mother!
Then sing, till all start to their feet, a
New verse even bolder and freer!
King Victor's no king like another,
But verily noble as we are,
Child, Teresita!'


"Life" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
3
LIFE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First printed in Blackwood's Magazine, May, 1847.

Each creature holds an insular point in space;
Yet what man stirs a finger, breathes a sound,
But all the multitudinous beings round
In all the countless worlds, with time and place
For their conditions, down to the central base,
Thrill, haply, in vibration and rebound,
Life answering life across the vast profound,
In full antiphony, by a common grace!
I think this sudden joyance which illumes
A child's mouth sleeping, unaware may run
From some soul newly loosened from earth's tombs:
I think this passionate sigh, which half-begun
I stifle back, may reach and stir the plumes
Of God's calm angel standing in the sun.


"Love" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
4
LOVE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First printed in Blackwood's Magazine, May, 1847.

We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue outward most impulsively,
Most full of invocation, and to be
Most instantly compellant, certes there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out her full force on another soul,
The conscience and the concentration both
Make mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth.
As Nature's magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.


"May's Love" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
5
MAY'S LOVE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

You love all, you say,
Round, beneath, above me:
Find me then some way
Better than to love me,
Me, too, dearest May!

II

O world-kissing eyes
Which the blue heavens melt to;
I, sad, overwise,
Loathe the sweet looks dealt to
All things -- men and flies.

III

You love all, you say:
Therefore, Dear, abate me
Just your love, I pray!
Shut your eyes and hate me --
Only me -- fair May!


"Mountaineer and Poet" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
6
MOUNTAINEER AND POET

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The simple goatherd between Alp and sky,
Seeing his shadow, in that awful tryst,
Dilated to a giant's on the mist,
Esteems not his own stature larger by
The apparent image, but more patiently
Strikes his staff down beneath his clenching fist,
While the snow-mountains lift their amethyst
And sapphire crowns of splendor, far and nigh,
Into the air around him. Learn from hence
Meek morals, all ye poets that pursue
Your way still onward, up to eminence!
Ye are not great because creation drew
Large revelations round your earliest sense,
Nor bright, because God's glory shines for you.


"Past and Future" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
7
PAST AND FUTURE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My future will not copy fair my past
On any leaf but Heaven's. Be fully done,
Supernal Will! I would not fain be one
Who, satisfying thirst and breaking fast,
Upon the fulness of the heart at last
Says no grace after meat. My wine has run
Indeed out of my cup, and there is none
To gather up the bread of my repast
Scattered and trampled; yet I find some good
In earth's green herbs, and streams that bubble up
Clear from the darkling ground, -- content until
I sit with angels before better food:
Dear Christ! when thy new vintage fills my cup,
This hand shall shake no more, nor that wine spill


"Patience Taught By Nature"
8
PATIENCE TAUGHT BY NATURE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

'O DREARY life,' we cry, 'O dreary life!'
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven's true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle! Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land, savannah-swards
Unweary sweep, hills watch unworn, and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory: O thou God of old,
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these! --
But so much patience as a blade of grass
Grows by, contented through the heat and cold.


"Perplexed Music" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
9
PERPLEXED MUSIC

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED TO E. J.

Experience, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand,
Whence harmonies, we cannot understand,
Of God's will in his worlds, the strain unfolds
In sad-perplexed minors: deathly colds
Fall on us while we hear, and countermand
Our sanguine heart back from the fancyland
With nightingales in visionary wolds.
We murmur 'Where is any certain tune
Or measured music in such notes as these?'
But angels, leaning from the golden seat,
Are not so minded; their fine ear hath won
The issue of completed cadences,
And, smiling down the stars, they whisper --
SWEET.


"The Poet" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
0
THE POET

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The poet hath the child's sight in his breast
And sees all new. What oftenest he has viewed
He views with the first glory. Fair and good
Pall never on him, at the fairest, best,
But stand before him holy and undressed
In week-day false conventions, such as would
Drag other men down from the altitude
Of primal types, too early dispossessed.
Why, God would tire of all his heavens, as soon
As thou, O godlike, childlike poet, didst
Of daily and nightly sights of sun and moon!
And therefore hath He set thee in the midst
Where men may hear thy wonder's ceaseless tune
And praise His world for ever, as thou bidst.


"The Poet and the Bird" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
1
THE POET AND THE BIRD

A FABLE

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

Said a people to a poet -- 'Go out from among us straightway!
While we are thinking earthly things, thou singest of divine:
There's a little fair brown nightingale who, sitting in the gateway,
Makes fitter music to our ear, than any song of thine!'

II

The poet went out weeping; the nightingale ceased chanting:
'Now, wherefore, O thou nightingale, is all thy sweetness done?'
-- 'I cannot sing my earthly things, the heavenly poet wanting,
Whose highest harmony includes the lowest under sun.'

III

The poet went out weeping, and died abroad, bereft there;
The bird flew to his grave and died amid a thousand wails:
And when I last came by the place, I swear the music left there
Was only of the poet's song, and not the nightingale's.


"The Prospect" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
2
THE PROSPECT

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Methinks we do as fretful children do,
Leaning their faces on the window-pane
To sigh the glass dim with their own breath's stain,
And shut the sky and landscape from their view:
And thus, alas, since God the maker drew
A mystic separation 'twixt those twain, --
The life beyond us, and our souls in pain, --
We miss the prospect which we are called unto
By grief we are fools to use. Be still and strong,
O man, my brother! Hold thy sobbing breath,
And keep thy soul's large window pure from wrong!
That so, as life's appointment issueth,
Thy vision may be clear to watch along
The sunset consummation-lights of death.


"Question and Answer" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
3
QUESTION AND ANSWER

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

Love you seek for, presupposes
Summer heat and sunny glow.
Tell me, do you find moss-roses
Budding, blooming in the snow?
Snow might kill the rose-tree's root --
Shake it quickly from your foot,
Lest it harm you as you go.

II

From the ivy where it dapples
A gray ruin, stone by stone,
Do you look for grapes or apples,
Or for sad green leaves alone?
Pluck the leaves off, two or three --
Keep them for morality
When you shall be safe and gone.


"A Reed" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
4
A REED

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

First printed in Blackwood's Magazine, October 1846.

I

I am no trumpet, but a reed;
No flattering breath shall from me lead
A silver sound, a hollow sound:
I will not ring, for priest or king,
One blast that in re-echoing
Would leave a bondsman faster bound.

II

I am no trumpet, but a reed,--
A broken reed, the wind indeed
Left flat upon a dismal shore;
Yet if a little maid or child
Should sigh within it, earnest-mild
This reed will answer evermore.

III

I am no trumpet, but a reed;
Go, tell the fishers, as they spread
Their nets along the river's edge,
I will not tear their nets at all,
Nor pierce their hands, if they should fall:
Then let them leave me in the sedge.


"The Seraph and Poet" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
5
THE SERAPH AND POET

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The seraph sings before the manifest
God-One, and in the burning of the Seven,
And with the full life of consummate Heaven
Heaving beneath him like a mother's breast
Warm with her first-born's slumber in that nest.
The poet sings upon the earth grave-riven,
Before the naughty world, soon self-forgiven
For wronging him, -- and in the darkness prest
From his own soul by worldly weights. Even so,
Sing, seraph with the glory! heaven is high;
Sing, poet with the sorrow! earth is low:
The universe's inward voices cry
'Amen' to either song of joy and woe:
Sing, seraph, -- poet, -- sing on equally!


"The Soul's Expression" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
6
THE SOUL'S EXPRESSION

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

With stammering lips and insufficient sound
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling interwound,
And inly answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height
Which step out grandly to the infinite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground.
This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it, -- as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud, my flesh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.


"Stanzas" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
7
STANZAS

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I MAY sing; but minstrel's singing
Ever ceaseth with his playing.
I may smile; but time is bringing
Thoughts for smiles to wear away in.
I may view thee, mutely loving;
But shall view thee so in dying!
I may sigh; but life's removing,
And with breathing endeth sighing!
Be it so!

When no song of mine comes near thee,
Will its memory fail to soften?
When no smile of mine can cheer thee,
Will thy smile be used as often?
When my looks the darkness boundeth,
Will thine own be lighted after?
When my sigh no longer soundeth,
Wilt thou list another's laughter?
Be it so!


"Substitution" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
8
SUBSTITUTION

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

When some beloved voice that was to you
Both sound and sweetness, faileth suddenly,
And silence, against which you dare not cry,
Aches round you like a strong disease and new --
What hope? what help? what music will undo
That silence to your sense? Not friendship's sigh,
Not reason's subtle count; not melody
Of viols, nor of pipes that Faunus blew;
Not songs of poets, nor of nightingales
Whose hearts leap upward through the cypress-trees
To the clear moon; nor yet the spheric laws
Self-chanted, nor the angels' sweet 'All hails,'
Met in the smile of God: nay, none of these.
Speak THOU, availing Christ! -- and fill this pause.


"Tears" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
9
TEARS

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thank God, bless God, all ye who suffer not
More grief than ye can weep for. That is well --
That is light grieving! lighter, none befell
Since Adam forfeited the primal lot.
Tears! what are tears? The babe weeps in its cot,
The mother singing; at her marriage-bell
The bride weeps, and before the oracle
Of high-faned hills the poet has forgot
Such moisture on his cheeks. Thank God for grace,
Ye who weep only! If, as some have done,
Ye grope tear-blinded in a desert place
And touch but tombs, -- look up! those tears will run
Soon in long rivers down the lifted face,
And leave the vision clear for stars and sun.


"A Thought for a Lonely Death-Bed"
0
A THOUGHT FOR A LONELY DEATH-BED

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

INSCRIBED TO MY FRIEND E. C.

If God compel thee to this destiny,
To die alone, with none beside thy bed
To ruffle round with sobs thy last word said
And mark with tears the pulses ebb from thee, --
Pray then alone, 'O Christ, come tenderly!
By thy forsaken Sonship in the red
Drear wine-press, -- by the wilderness out-spread, --
And the lone garden where thine agony
Fell bloody from thy brow, -- by all of those
Permitted desolations, comfort mine!
No earthly friend being near me, interpose
No deathly angel 'twixt my face and thine,
But stoop Thyself to gather my life's rose,
And smile away my mortal to Divine!'


"To Mary Russell Mitford"
1
TO MARY RUSSELL MITFORD

IN HER GARDEN

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What time I lay these rhymes anear thy feet,
Benignant friend, I will not proudly say
As better poets use, 'These flowers I lay,'
Because I would not wrong thy roses sweet,
Blaspheming so their name. And yet, repeat
Thou, overleaning them this springtime day,
With heart as open to love as theirs to May,
-- 'Low-rooted verse may reach some heavenly heat,
Even like my blossoms, if as nature-true,
Though not as precious.' Thou art unperplext --
Dear friend, in whose dear writings drops the dew
And blow the natural airs, -- thou, who art next
To nature's self in cheering the world's view, --
To preach a sermon on so known a text!


91
"The Two Sayings"
2
THE TWO SAYINGS

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Two sayings of the Holy Scriptures beat
Like pulses in the Church's brow and breast;
And by them we find rest in our unrest
And, heart deep in salt-tears, do yet entreat
God's fellowship as if on heavenly seat.
The first is JESUS WEPT, -- whereon is prest
Full many a sobbing face that drops its best
And sweetest waters on the record sweet:
And one is where the Christ, denied and scorned
LOOKED UPON PETER. Oh, to render plain
By help of having loved a little and mourned,
That look of sovran love and sovran pain
Which HE, who could not sin yet suffered, turned
On him who could reject but not sustain!


"The Weakest Thing" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
3
THE WEAKEST THING

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I

Which is the weakest thing of all
Mine heart can ponder?
The sun, a little cloud can pall
With darkness yonder?
The cloud, a little wind can move
Where'er it listeth?
The wind, a little leaf above,
Though sere, resisteth?

II

What time that yellow leaf was green,
My days were gladder;
But now, whatever Spring may mean,
I must grow sadder.
Ah me! a leaf with sighs can wring
My lips asunder?
Then is mine heart the weakest thing
Itself can ponder.

III

Yet, Heart, when sun and cloud are pined
And drop together,
And at a blast which is not wind
The forests wither,
Thou, from the darkening deathly curse
To glory breakest, --
The Strongest of the universe
Guarding the weakest!


"Work" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
4
WORK

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

WHAT are we set on earth for? Say, to toil;
Nor seek to leave thy tending of the vines
For all the heat o' the day, till it declines,
And Death's mild curfew shall from work assoil.
God did anoint thee with his odorous oil,
To wrestle, not to reign; and He assigns
All thy tears over, like pure crystallines,
For younger fellow-workers of the soil
To wear for amulets. So others shall
Take patience, labor, to their heart and hand,
From thy hand and thy heart and thy brave cheer,
And God's grace fructify through thee to all.
The least flower with a brimming cup may stand,
And share its dew-drop with another near.


"Work and Contemplation"
5
WORK AND CONTEMPLATION

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The woman singeth at her spinning-wheel
A pleasant chant, ballad or barcarole;
She thinketh of her song, upon the whole,
Far more than of her flax; and yet the reel
Is full, and artfully her fingers feel
With quick adjustment, provident control,
The lines -- too subtly twisted to unroll --
Out to a perfect thread. I hence appeal
To the dear Christian Church -- that we may do
Our Father's business in these temples mirk,
Thus swift and steadfast, thus intent and strong;
While thus, apart from toil, our souls pursue
Some high calm spheric tune, and prove our work
The better for the sweetness of our song.


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