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"Night and the Merry Man" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The following is the complete text of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Night and the Merry Man." Our presentation of this classic poem 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"
Short poems and sonnets
"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"
"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 literary works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, obsolete footnotes, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.

"Night and the Merry Man"


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


'Neath my moon what doest thou,
With a somewhat paler brow
Than she giveth to the ocean?
He, without a pulse or motion,
Muttering low before her stands,
Lifting his invoking hands
Like a seer before a sprite,
To catch her oracles of light:
But thy soul out-trembles now
Many pulses on thy brow.
Where be all thy laughters clear,
Others laughed alone to hear?
Where thy quaint jests, said for fame?
Where thy dances, mixed with game?
Where thy festive companies,
Mooned o'er with ladies' eyes
All more bright for thee, I trow?
'Neath my moon what doest thou?


I am digging my warm heart
Till I find its coldest part;
I am digging wide and low,
Further than a spade will go,
Till that, when the pit is deep
And large enough, I there may heap
All my present pain and past
Joy, dead things that look aghast
By the daylight: now 't is done.
Throw them in, by one and one!
I must laugh, at rising sun.

Memories -- of fancy's golden
Treasures which my hands have holden,
Till the chillness made them ache;
Of childhood's hopes that used to wake
If birds were in a singing strain,
And for less cause, sleep again;
Of the moss-seat in the wood
Where I trysted solitude;
Of the hill-top where the wind
Used to follow me behind,
Then in sudden rush to blind
Both my glad eyes with my hair,
Taken gladly in the snare;
Of the climbing up the rocks,
Of the playing 'neath the oaks
Which retain beneath them now
Only shadow of the bough;
Of the lying on the grass
While the clouds did overpass,
Only they, so lightly driven,
Seeming betwixt me and Heaven;
Of the little prayers serene,
Murmuring of earth and sin;
Of large-leaved philosophy
Leaning from my childish knee;
Of poetic book sublime,
Soul-kissed for the first dear time,
Greek or English, ere I knew
Life was not a poem too: --
Throw them in, by one and one!
I must laugh, at rising sun.

-- Of the glorious ambitions
Yet unquenched by their fruitions;
Of the reading out the nights;
Of the straining at mad heights;
Of achievements, less descried
By a dear few than magnified;
Of praises from the many earned
When praise from love was undiscerned;
Of the sweet reflecting gladness
Softened by itself to sadness: --
Throw them in, by one and one!
I must laugh, at rising sun.

What are these? more, more than these!
Throw in dearer memories! --
Of voices whereof but to speak
Makes mine own all sunk and weak;
Of smiles the thought of which is sweeping
All my soul to floods of weeping;
Of looks whose absence fain would weigh
My looks to the ground for aye;
Of clasping hands -- ah me, I wring
Mine, and in a tremble fling
Downward, downward all this paining!
Partings with the sting remaining,
Meetings with a deeper throe
Since the joy is ruined so,
Changes with a fiery burning,
(Shadows upon all the turning,)
Thoughts of . . . with a storm they came,
Them I have not breath to name:
Downward, downward be they cast
In the pit! and now at last
My work beneath the moon is done,
And I shall laugh, at rising sun.

But let me pause or ere I cover
All my treasures darkly over:
I will speak not in thine ears,
Only tell my beaded tears
Silently, most silently.
When the last is calmly told,
Let that same moist rosary
With the rest sepulchred be,
Finished now! The darksome mould
Sealeth up the darksome pit.
I will lay no stone on it,
Grasses I will sow instead,
Fit for Queen Titania's tread;
Flowers, encoloured with the sun,
And ai ai written upon none;
Thus, whenever saileth by
The Lady World of dainty eye,
Not a grief shall here remain,
Silken shoon to damp or stain:
And while she lisps, "I have not seen
Any place more smooth and clean" . . .
Here she cometh! -- Ha, ha! -- who
Laughs as loud as I can do?

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