XLl. I thank all who have loved me in their hearts – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLl. I thank all who have loved me in their hearts

I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,
With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all
Who paused a little near the prison-wall
To hear my music in its louder parts
Ere they went onward, each one to the mart’s
Or temple’s occupation, beyond call.
But thou, who, in my voice’s sink and fall,
When the sob took it, thy divinest Art’s
Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot
To hearken what I said between my tears, –
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!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

______________________

addressing everything that came before
Elizabeth seems to be addressing also
everything that comes after, which is to
say eternity, infinity, her legacy

her hope is that she will be able to express
the thanks she owes to someone, among all
others who loved her indeed but could only
move on after listening to her, who didn’t

inadvertently she therein defines true love,
he, or indeed she, who would “thy divinest
Art’s / Own instrument”
– in this instance
Robert‘s poetry – “didst drop down at thy
foot / To hearken what I said between my
tears”
– who would suspend his work, and
pay attention to her sorrow, to even her
inanities, I here interpolate advisedly, her
achievements, her very joys

for fleeting love loves mostly itself in passing,
a love which easily overlooks, and dissipates

I believe Elizabeth in this poem has thrust
herself into significant poetic history, finally,
combining her account of her personal love
with a voice which for the first time in the
sonnets
addresses itself to, however
circuitously, some would say surreptitiously,
even circumspectly – for she’s speaking still
to him – to history, to “future years, / That they
should lend it utterance“,
a literary marriage,
she’s effected by this extrapolation, this
synecdoche – supplanting the part for the
whole – of the personal and the, at the very
least anthropologically, profound

topped off with a toast, “salute”, even to a
coveted, though perhaps only apocryphal,
I interject, ideal, “Love that endures, from
Life that disappears”

how, and by very definition, Romantic, is
that

Richard

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