Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man.
- To George Sand, A Desire (1844).
- Or from Browning some "Pomegranate," which, if cut deep down the middle,
shows a heart within blood-tinctured of a veined humanity.
- Lady Geraldine's Courtship, st. 41 (1844).
- Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers—
And that cannot stop their tears.
- The Cry of the Children, st. 1 (1844).
- I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless.
- Grief, l. 1 (1844).
- Therefore to this dog will I,
Tenderly not scornfully,
Render praise and favor:
With my hand upon his head,
Is my benediction said
Therefore and for ever.
- To Flush, My Dog, st. 14 (1844).
- "Yes," I answered you last night;
"No," this morning, Sir, I say.
Colours seen by candlelight,
Will not look the same by day.
- The Lady's Yes, st. 1 (1844).
- Unless you can muse in a crowd all day
On the absent face that fixed you;
Unless you can love, as the angels may,
With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;
Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,
Through behoving and unbehoving;
Unless you can die when the dream is past —
Oh, never call it loving!
- A Woman's Shortcomings, st. 5 (1850).
- What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.
- A Musical Instrument, st. 1 (1860).
- The cypress stood up like a church
That night we felt our love would hold,
And saintly moonlight seemed to search
And wash the whole world clean as gold;
The olives crystallized the vales'
Broad slopes until the hills grew strong:
The fireflies and the nightingales
Throbbed each to either, flame and song.
The nightingales, the nightingales.
- Bianca Among the Nightingales, st. 1 (1862).
- But so fair,
She takes the breath of men away
Who gaze upon her unaware.
- Bianca Among the Nightingales, st. 12 (1862).
- 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.
- Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 247.
- And I said in underbreath —
All our life is mixed with death, —
And who knoweth which is best?
And I smiled to think God's greatness
Flowed around our incompleteness, —
Round our restlessness, His rest.
- Rhyme of the Duchess; reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 514.
- I cannot speak
In happy tones; the tear drops on my cheek
Show I am sad;
But I can speak
Of grace to suffer with submission meek,
Until made glad.
I cannot feel
That all is well, when dark'ning clouds conceal
The shining sun;
But then I know
God lives and loves; and say, since it is so,
"Thy will be done."
- Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 514.
- Oh, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west.
- Toll Slowly; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- But since he had
The genius to be loved, why let him have
The justice to be honoured in his grave.
- Crowned and Buried, xxvii reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- By thunders of white silence.
- Hiram Powers's Greek Slave; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
- And that dismal cry rose slowly
And sank slowly through the air,
Full of spirit's melancholy
And eternity's despair;
And they heard the words it said,—
"Pan is dead! great Pan is dead!
Pan, Pan is dead!"
- The Dead Pan; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)..
- She has seen the mystery hid
Under Egypt's pyramid:
By those eyelids pale and close
Now she knows what Rhamses knows.
- Little Mattie, Stanza ii; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
A Vision of Poets (1844)
- There Shakespeare, on whose forehead climb
The crowns o’ the world; oh, eyes sublime
With tears and laughter for all time!
- And Chaucer, with his infantine
Familiar clasp of things divine.
- And Marlowe, Webster, Fletcher, Ben,
Whose fire-hearts sowed our furrows when
The world was worthy of such men.
- Knowledge by suffering entereth,
And life is perfected by death.
Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)
- "Guess now who holds thee?"—"Death," I said. But there
The silver answer rang—"Not Death, but Love."
- No. I
- Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor,
Most gracious singer of high poems! where
The dancers will break footing, from the care
Of watching up thy pregnant lips for more.
- No. IV
- Hush, call no echo up in further proof
Of desolation! there's a voice within
That weeps . . . as thou must sing . . . alone, aloof.
- No. IV
- Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow.
- No. VI
- If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile —her look —her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day" -
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.
- No. XIV
- 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 curvèd point, — what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented?
- No. XXII
- God only, who made us rich, can make us poor.
- No. XXIV
- Because God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame.
- No. XXVI
- Instruct me how to thank thee! Oh, to shoot
My soul's full meaning into future years,
That they should lend it utterance, and salute
Love that endures, from life that disappears!
- No. LXI
- I seek no copy now of life's first half:
Leave here the pages with long musing curled,
And write me new my future's epigraph,
New angel mine, unhoped for in the world!
- No. LXII
- How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! —and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
- No. LXIII
- Here's ivy! — take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.
- No. LXIV
Aurora Leigh (1857)
- Of writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,—
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.
- Bk. I, l. 1-8.
- Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, 'Love–'
'Love, my child, love, love!'–(then he had done with grief)
'Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.
- Bk. I, l. 210-214.
- Dreams of doing good
For good-for-nothing people.
- Book II.
- The beautiful seems right
By force of Beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness.
- Book II.
- Every wish
Is like a prayer—with God.
- Book II.
- If I married him,
I would not dare to call my soul my own,
Which so he had bought and paid for: every thought
And every heart-beat down there in the bill,–
Not one found honestly deductible
From any use that pleased him!
- Bk. II, l. 785-790.
- God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,
And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,
A gauntlet with a gift in't.
- Bk. II, l. 952-954.
- Good critics, who have stamped out poets' hope,
Good statesmen, who pulled ruin on the state,
Good patriots, who for a theory risked a cause.
- Book IV.
- That he, in his developed manhood, stood
A little sunburnt by the glare of life;
While I . . it seemed no sun had shone on me.
- Bk. IV, l. 1139-1141.
- Whoso loves
Believes the impossible.
- Book V.
- The growing drama has outgrown such toys
Of simulated stature, face, and speech:
It also peradventure may outgrow
The simulation of the painted scene,
Boards, actors, prompters, gaslight, and costume,
And take for a worthier stage the soul itself,
Its shifting fancies and celestial lights,
With all its grand orchestral silences
To keep the pauses of its rhythmic sounds.
- Book V.
- Nay, if there's room for poets in the world
A little overgrown, (I think there is)
Their sole work is to represent the age,
Their age, not Charlemagne's, — this live, throbbing age,
That brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, aspires,
And spends more passion, more heroic heat,
Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing-rooms,
Than Roland with his knights, at Roncesvalles.
- Bk. V, l. 200-207.
- Since when was genius found respectable?
- Bk. VI, l. 275.
- Man, the two-fold creature, apprehends
The two-fold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him.
A mere itself, — cup, column, or candlestick,
All patterns of what shall be in the Mount;
The whole temporal show related royally,
And build up to eterne significance
Through the open arms of God.
- Bk. VII, l. 801-808.
- And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And, — glancing on my own thin, veined wrist, —
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.
- Bk. VII, l. 812-826.
De Profundis (1862)
- The face, which, duly as the sun,
Rose up for me with life begun,
To mark all bright hours of the day
With hourly love, is dimmed away —
And yet my days go on, go on.
- St. 1.
The heart which, like a staff, was one
For mine to lean and rest upon,
The strongest on the longest day
With steadfast love, is caught away,
And yet my days go on, go on.
And cold before my summer's done,
And deaf in Nature's general tune,
And fallen too low for special fear,
And here, with hope no longer here,
While the tears drop, my days go on.
- St. 3 - 4.
- By anguish which made pale the sun,
I hear Him charge his saints that none
Among his creatures anywhere
Blaspheme against Him with despair,
However darkly days go on.
- St. 19.
Take from my head the thorn-wreath brown!
No mortal grief deserves that crown.
O supreme Love, chief misery,
The sharp regalia are for Thee
Whose days eternally go on!'
For us, — whatever's undergone,
Thou knowest, willest what is done,
Grief may be joy misunderstood;
Only the Good discerns the good.
I trust Thee while my days go on.
- St. 20-21.
- Whatever's lost, it first was won;
We will not struggle nor impugn.
Perhaps the cup was broken here,
That Heaven's new wine might show more clear.
I praise Thee while my days go on.
- St. 22.
I praise Thee while my days go on;
I love Thee while my days go on:
Through dark and dearth, through fire and frost,
With emptied arms and treasure lost,
I thank Thee while my days go on.
And having in thy life-depth thrown
Being and suffering (which are one),
As a child drops his pebble small
Down some deep well, and hears it fall
Smiling — so I. THY DAYS GO ON.
- St. 23 -24.
Quotes about Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Feminist literary critics have shown how in the 19th century women writers began to acknowledge women as their muses and their role models...Elizabeth Barrett Browning admired the work of George Sand and Mme. de Staël, while her work, in its turn, was an inspiration to Emily Dickinson.,,all of the American nineteenth-century woman's rights leaders considered Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh an inspiration. The list could be indefinitely extended to show the almost desperate search of writing women for authoritative female predecessors.
- Gerda Lerner The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1993)
- Life Loves/to change, wrote poet John Masefield,/in the cobbled town of Ledbury, Herefordshire,/Elizabeth Barrett Browning's town too./.../I felt drunk on general coziness.../thinking of Elizabeth,/whose "father never spoke to her again," once she/had a child (what was his problem?),/and Masefield, who suffered intense seasickness/yet wrote about going down to the sea/as if it were his favorite act/.../Life loves to change-but some of us want to/stay.
- Naomi Shihab Nye Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners (2018)
- Emily Dickinson was always stirred by the existences of women like George Eliot or Elizabeth Barrett, who possessed strength of mind, articulateness, and energy. (She once characterized Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale as "holy"-one suspects she merely meant, "great.")
- Adrienne Rich On Lies, Secrets and Silence (1979)