V. I lift my heavy heart up solemnly – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by richibi

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

V. I lift my heavy heart up solemnly…

I lift my heavy heart up solemnly,
As once Electra her sepulchral urn,
And, looking in thine eyes, I overturn
The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see
What a great heap of grief lay hid in me,
And how the red wild sparkles dimly burn
Through the ashen greyness. If thy foot in scorn
Could tread them out to darkness utterly,
It might be well perhaps. But if instead
Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow
The grey dust up, . . . those laurels on thine head,
O my Belovèd, will not shield thee so,
That none of all the fires shall scorch and shred
The hair beneath. Stand farther off then! go.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

___________________

Elizabeth has realized that Robert might stay, but,
she says, should you, this is all I have to offer,
“ashes
at thy feet… a great heap of grief”,
where, however,
“wild sparkles dimly burn / Through the ashen greyness”

she is not, she insists, not alive, she is even “scorch[ing]“,
she confirms, beneath the apparent drudge, enough to set
Robert on dire fire should he not “tread them out”, they
would consume even him, “those laurels on thine head, /
O my Belovèd, will not shield thee”
otherwise

be off, she warns, “Stand farther off then! go.”, an admonition
she must herself also heed, she surely intuits, should she be
called upon to indeed catch incendiary flame

“But if instead / Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow/
The grey dust up…”

there is an evolution here in the procees of love which
will surely bear investigation as the sonnets unfold, an
emotional unfurling, I would think, of the stages of
recognized and appreciated devotion, Robert, as it
turned out, stuck around, a love story brought to
inspirational fruition for the very ages

Richard

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