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Elizabeth barrett browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
9

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curvéd point, —what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us, and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovèd, —where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death—hour rounding it.

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.

We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life: and when we bear
Our virtue onward 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.

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 hear calmly all the time
This everlasting face to face with GOD?

God, God!
With a child’€™s voice I cry,
Weak, sad, confidingly’€”
   God, God!
Thou knowest, eyelids, raised not always up
Unto Thy love (as none of ours are), droop
 As ours, o’€™er many a tear!
Thou knowest, though Thy universe is broad,
Two little tears suffice to cover all:
Thou knowest, Thou, who art so prodigal
Of beauty, we are oft but stricken deer
Expiring in the woods’€”that care for none
Of those delightsome flowers they die upon.

O blissful Mouth which breathed the mournful breath
We name our souls, self-spoilt!'€”by that strong passion
Which paled Thee once with sighs,'€”by that strong death
Which made Thee once unbreathing’€”from the wrack
Themselves have called around them, call them back,
Back to Thee in continuous aspiration!
 For here, O Lord,
For here they travel vainly,'€”vainly pass
From city-pavement to untrodden sward,
Where the lark finds her deep nest in the grass
Cold with the earth’€™s last dew. Yea, very vain
The greatest speed of all these souls of men
Unless they travel upward to the throne
Where sittest THOU, the satisfying ONE,
With help for sins and holy perfectings
For all requirements’€”while the archangel, raising
Unto Thy face his full ecstatic gazing,
Forgets the rush and rapture of his wings.

And wilt thou have me fashion into speech
The love I bear thee, finding words enough,
And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,
Between our faces, to cast light upon each?
I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach
My hand to hold my spirit so far off
From myself.. me.. that I should bring thee proof,
In words of love hid in me... out of reach.
Nay, let the silence of my womanhood
Commend my woman-love to thy belief,
Seeing that I stand unwon (however wooed)
And rend the garment of my life in brief
By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,
Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief.

All are not taken; there are left behind
Living Belovèds, 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 this world for comforting,
Nor any path but hollowly did ring
Where 'dust to dust’ the love from life disjoin’d;
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?’

LOVING friend, the gift of one,
Who, her own true faith, hath run,
   Through thy lower nature ;
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
   Gentle fellow—creature!

Like a lady’s ringlets brown,
Flow thy silken ears adown
   Either side demurely,
Of thy silver—suited breast
Shining out from all the rest
   Of thy body purely.

Darkly brown thy body is,
Till the sunshine, striking this,
   Alchemize its dulness, —
When the sleek curls manifold
Flash all over into gold,
   With a burnished fulness.

Underneath my stroking hand,
Startled eyes of hazel bland
   Kindling, growing larger, —
Up thou leapest with a spring,
Full of prank and curvetting,
   Leaping like a charger.

Leap! thy broad tail waves a light ;
Leap! thy slender feet are bright,
   Canopied in fringes.
Leap —those tasselled ears of thine
Flicker strangely, fair and fine,
   Down their golden inches

Yet, my pretty sportive friend,
Little is ‘t to such an end
   That I praise thy rareness!
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears,
   And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
   Day and night unweary, —
Watched within a curtained room,
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
   Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
   Beam and breeze resigning —
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone,
   Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares and followed through
   Sunny moor or meadow —
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
   Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
   Up the woodside hieing —
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech,
   Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears,
   Or a sigh came double, —
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
   In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied,
If a pale thin hand would glide,
   Down his dewlaps sloping, —
Which he pushed his nose within,
After, —platforming his chin
   On the palm left open.

This dog, if a friendly voice
Call him now to blyther choice
   Than such chamber—keeping,
Come out! ’ praying from the door, —
Presseth backward as before,
   Up against me leaping.

Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly not scornfully,
   Render praise and favour!
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said
   Therefore, and for ever.

And because he loves me so,
Better than his kind will do
   Often, man or woman,
Give I back more love again
Than dogs often take of men, —
   Leaning from my Human.

Blessings on thee, dog of mine,
Pretty collars make thee fine,
   Sugared milk make fat thee!
Pleasures wag on in thy tail —
Hands of gentle motion fail
   Nevermore, to pat thee!

Downy pillow take thy head,
Silken coverlid bestead,
   Sunshine help thy sleeping!
No fly 's buzzing wake thee up —
No man break thy purple cup,
   Set for drinking deep in.

Whiskered cats arointed flee —
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee
   Cologne distillations ;
Nuts lie in thy path for stones,
And thy feast—day macaroons
   Turn to daily rations!

Mock I thee, in wishing weal? —
Tears are in my eyes to feel
   Thou art made so straightly,
Blessing needs must straighten too, —
Little canst thou joy or do,
   Thou who lovest greatly.

Yet be blessed to the height
Of all good and all delight
   Pervious to thy nature, —
Only loved beyond that line,
With a love that answers thine,
   Loving fellow—creature!

I
Love me Sweet, with all thou art,
   Feeling, thinking, seeing;
Love me in the lightest part,
   Love me in full being.

II
Love me with thine open youth
   In its frank surrender;
With the vowing of thy mouth,
   With its silence tender.

III
Love me with thine azure eyes,
   Made for earnest granting;
Taking colour from the skies,
   Can Heaven’s truth be wanting?

IV
Love me with their lids, that fall
   Snow—like at first meeting;
Love me with thine heart, that all
   Neighbours then see beating.

V
Love me with thine hand stretched out
   Freely—open—minded:
Love me with thy loitering foot,—
   Hearing one behind it.

VI
Love me with thy voice, that turns
   Sudden faint above me;
Love me with thy blush that burns
   When I murmur Love me!

VII
Love me with thy thinking soul,
   Break it to love—sighing;
Love me with thy thoughts roll
   On through living—dying.

VIII
Love me when in thy gorgeous airs,
   When the world has crowned thee;
Love me, kneeling at thy prayers,
   With the angels round thee.

IX
Love me pure, as musers do,
   Up the woodlands shady:
Love me gaily, fast and true
   As a winsome lady.

X
Through all hopes that keep us brave,
   Farther off or nigher,
Love me for the house and grave,
   And for something higher.

XI
Thus, if thou wilt prove me, Dear,
   Woman’s love no fable.
I will love thee—half a year—
   As a man is able.

1

EXPERIENCE, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand,
Whence harmonies, we cannot understand,
Of God; 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.

Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright,
Let temple burn, or flax; an equal light
Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed:
And love is fire. And when I say at need
I love thee . . . mark! . . . I love thee—in thy sight
I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
With conscience of the new rays that proceed
Out of my face toward thine. There’s nothing low
In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures
Who love God, God accepts while loving so.
And what I feel, across the inferior features
Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show
How that great work of Love enhances Nature’s.

The soul’s Rialto hath its merchandise;
I barter curl for curl upon that mart,
And from my poet’s forehead to my heart
Receive this lock which outweighs argosies,—
As purply black, as erst to Pindar’s eyes
The dim purpureal tresses gloomed athwart
The nine white Muse-brows. For this counterpart, . . .
The bay-crown’s shade, Beloved, I surmise,
Still lingers on thy curl, it is so black!
Thus, with a fillet of smooth-kissing breath,
I tie the shadows safe from gliding back,
And lay the gift where nothing hindereth;
Here on my heart, as on thy brow, to lack
No natural heat till mine grows cold in death.