Selections from Elizabeth Browning’s Sonnets

August 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

I have to return the book to the library today, so I thought I would post some of my favorites thus far. Aren’t they lovely? Elizabeth Browning is one of my favorite poets…possibly my absolute favorite. There is at the same time a delicate quality and a burning passion to her work.

VI

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand

Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore

Alone upon the threshold of my door

Of individual life, I shall command

The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand

Serenely in the sunshine as before,

Without the sense of that which I forbore –

Thy touch upon my palm. The widest land

Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine

With pulses that beat double. What I do

And what I dream include thee, as the wine

Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue

God for myself, He hears that name of thine,

And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

~

VII

The face of all the world is changed, I think,

Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul

Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole

Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink

Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink,

Was caught up into love, and taught the whole

Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole

God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink,

And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear.

The names of country, heaven, are changed away

For where thou art or shalt be, there or here;

And this…this lute and song…loved yesterday

(The singing angels know) are only dear

Because thy name moves right in what they say.

~

X

Yes, 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 love

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.

~

XX

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think

That thou wast in the world a year ago,

What time I sat alone here in the snow

And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink

No moment at thy voice,…but, link by link,

Went counting all my chains as if that so

They never could fall off at any blow

Struck by thy possible hand…why, thus I drink

Of life’s great cup of wonder! Wonderful,

Never to feel thee thrill the day or night

With personal act or speech, – nor even cull

Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white

Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,

Who cannot guess God’s presence out of sight.

~

XXVI

I lived with visions for my company

Instead of men and women, years ago,

And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know

A sweeter music than they played to me.

But soon their trailing purple was not free

Of this world’s dust, – their lutes did silent grow,

And I myself grew faint and blind below

Their vanishings eyes. Then THOU didst come…to be,

Beloved, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,

Their song, their splendours, (better, yet the same,

As river-water hallowed into fonts)

Met in theee, and from out thee overcame

My soul with satisfaction of all wants –

Because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.

~

XXXIII

Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear

The 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 dear

With the look of its eyes. I miss the clear

Fond voices which, being drawn and reconciled

Into the music of Heaven’s undefiled,

Call me no longer. Silence on the bier,

While I call God…call God! – So let thy mouth

Be heir to those who are now exanimate.

Gather the north flowers to complete the south,

And catch the early love up in the late.

Yes, call me by that name, – and I, in truth,

With the same heart, will answer and not wait.

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