Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Tag: Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers

Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart’s ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here’s eglantine,
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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


let me, much as Elizabeth is doing here,
submit these comments which I’ve been
sending you, all 44 of them specifically
on these sonnets, their very entirety,
not to mention other opinions I’ve
delivered on several other topics, they
are what I can return of what the world
has given me, the world has “brought
me many flowers”

“these thoughts which here unfolded
[for me] too,” while all of this was
happening, “And which on warm and
cold days I withdrew / From my heart’s
through “bitter [even] weeds
and rue”
sometimes indeed also,
despite, unreasonably perhaps, the
abundance of flowers, for I succumb
easily also, as poets often do, to
crushing despair – who’d o’ thunk it –
and can be categorically unforgiving
at times of an ungorgiving God

see Philip Larkin for instance on this one
before seeing even Nietzsche, and I could
name, of course, several others

“yet here’s eglantine, / Here’s ivy!”, I’ve
also found, and have concluded that
their example is the one to follow

be splendid, it is the only honourable
answer, I’ve devised, which God could
not easily dishonour

these verses have been as my flowers,
“take them, ….. / …. , 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.”

yours ever truly


XXXVlll. First time he kissed me, he but only kissed – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXVlll. First time he kissed me, he but only kissed

First time he kissed me, he but only kissed
The fingers of this hand wherewith I write;
And ever since, it grew more clean and white,
Slow to world-greetings, quick with its “Oh, list,”
When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst
I could not wear here, plainer to my sight,
Than that first kiss. The second passed in height
The first, and sought the forehead, and half missed,
Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed!
That was the chrism of love, which love’s own crown,
With sanctifying sweetness, did precede.
The third upon my lips was folded down
In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed,
I have been proud and said, “My love, my own.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


had the sonnet allowed for more lines,
instead of its strict fourteen, this poem
could not ‘ve not become indecent,
“purple”, she says, indeed

nor, for that matter, more clear, Elizabeth
has succumbed to his one, two, three
kisses, enough to now call him [m]y love,
my own”

meed is a reward, and archaic

chrism is holy anointing oil, nearly also
now, but sacramentally, lost

so intimate a declaration as this would’ve
been unprecedented in 1845-46, when
these poems were written, though we’re
used to much more flagrant stuff nowadays

that this had been written by a woman
must’ve been nearly scandalous, though
such was allowing the Romantic Age, and
this “most flagrant” expression would
become eventually its very symbol, the
exploration of the human heart, the highly
intimate revelations of an individual soul

Elizabeth Barrett Browning holds the top
spot here, nobody does it better

in intrinsically less overtly graphic music,

Richard Strauss does a similar thing in his
opera “Salome” several years later, several,
indeed, decades later, 1905, but in reverse,
Salome wants to first of all touch John the
Baptist’s skin, he won’t allow it, undaunted
she asks to touch his black hair, nor will
he allow that, she insists further on a kiss,
which doesn’t either come, the scene is
lurid and shocking

“nothing in the world is as red as your
she begs, “let me kiss it, your

my dear, I cautioned

later she will dance the Dance of the Seven
lately performed even, after the veils
are, one by one, off, naked

for which she gets John the Baptist’s head,
and finally gets her kiss


the version I saw was unforgettable,
though it had taken a free ticket to
get me there


psst: you’ll note, incidentally, that this poem
is not an avowal, but a confidence,
spoken to us, not to him, a not
insignificant factor

XXXVll. Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXVll. Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make

Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make,
Of all that strong divineness which I know
For thine and thee, an image only so
Formed of the sand, and fit to shift and break.
It is that distant years which did not take
Thy sovranty, recoiling with a blow,
Have forced my swimming brain to undergo
Their doubt and dread, and blindly to forsake
The purity of likeness and distort
Thy worthiest love to a worthless counterfeit:
As if a shipwrecked Pagan, safe in port,
His guardian sea-god to commemorate,
Should set a sculptured porpoise, gills a-snort
And vibrant tail, within the temple-gate

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


though Elizabeth Barrett Browning is ever
abstruse, dare I say, even Baroque – the
epoch of distorted perspectives and
dimensions which preceded the Classical
Era – in her not only grammatical but also
metaphorical constructions, to the point of,
as in the last, her XXXVlth sonnet, being
incomprehensible, too athwart for my taste,
or even my tolerance, here she returns to
form to shine again in her own Romantic
Age, a more literate time, as opposed to
our more visual one, where straight talk
would not ‘ve passed muster as worthy
of any art, that would happen only later
as a reaction to too elaborate artifice,
which you might already even decry,
for instance, in these sonnets

but to make distinctive the form – the sonnet
goes back to at least Shakespeare, who is
even an obvious inspiration for Elizabeth
she would’ve had to embroider her own
version of it, which she could only have
done with fresh artifice upon the ancient
structure, like decorative elaborations on
the traditional tablecloth

if they work it’s because the artifice meets
the substance equally, enough to give
meaning to the poem, verve to the
reinvigorated tabletop

but often, dear Elizabeth, for me, and I would
think for many others in our Twitter age, for
the most part your poems do only just, albeit
enough to make you nevertheless iconic

for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Chopin
represent for us now more than any of the
other Romantics their distinctive Age, and
with great, let there be no doubt, and easily
demonstrated, authority

Pardon, oh, pardon is not a breeze but it
expands admirably, and distinctively, on her
other masterpieces, or should I say here,

forgive my soul, she asks, for mistaking your
“strong divineness” for something as fleeting
as “sand”, something “fit to shift and break”

his “sovranty” – sovereignty, which finds its
etymological roots in the French word
“souveraineté”, should you be wondering –
had not been a part of her past, her “distant
and therefore led to her confusion,
her “swimming brain”, imagining he might
be “a worthless counterfeit” – haven’t we all
been there – instead of the “worthiest love”

she compares herself to a “shipwrecked
who, saved, “safe in port”, gives
thanks, pays homage, to “a sea-god”, “a
sculptured porpoise, gills a-snort”,
than, of course, her One and True
Christian God, an interesting instance
of religious iconographical inflexibility,
as though her Christian God had more
authenticity than the sea deity

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, it should be
noted, remained ever to her Divinity devout
despite the intermittent fluctuations of her
less religiously committed husband

who nevertheless remained ever to her
true, and ever, both romantically and
Romantically, by her, stalwart


XXXVl. When we met first and loved, I did not build – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXVl. When we met first and loved, I did not build

When we met first and loved, I did not build
Upon the event with marble. Could it mean
To last, a love set pendulous between
Sorrow and sorrow? Nay, I rather thrilled,
Distrusting every light that seemed to gild
The onward path, and feared to overlean
A finger even. And, though I have grown serene
And strong since then, I think that God has willed
A still renewable fear . . .O love, O troth
Lest these enclaspèd hands should never hold,
This mutual kiss drop down between us both
As an unowned thing, once the lips being cold.
And Love, be false! if he, to keep one oath,
Must lose one joy, by his life’s star foretold

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


some poems cross the line of scrutability,
the line of even credibility sometimes,
being too cute for their own artful ever
nevertheless intentions, too abstruse,
clever, for their own too weighted words,
having let artifice overwhelm whatever

the beginning here is straightforward,
Elizabeth hasn’t cast her dreams in
“marble”, she hasn’t engraved her
illusions in stone, she dutifully allows
for disappointment in the promise of
fulfilment that lies between what has
lain before for her and what lies ahead
be this promise not fulfilled, or
eventually, in any case, forthwith
thwarted, as inexorably it must, for
she is, they are, we all are, inescapably
mortal, we come to the end, ineluctably,
of all our projected dreams

but the danger of breaking, however
inadvertently, so magical a spell,
prevents her from moving even a
finger, as though a breath, a bristle,
a brush, could threaten its tenuous,
as she would have it, enchantment

and haven’t we all been there, I
remember the death of a possible love
in the momentary merely, and utterly
arbitrary, obstruction of our charged
line of sight, a sure sign of discordance,
a clear and irrevocable omen

but should their own conjunction not
hold, “This mutual kiss drop down
between us both”,
she enjoins, allow
it to take hold as an independent, an
“unowned”, thing, a tribute ever to the
ineradicability of the moment, she urges,
even beyond their “lips being cold”, which
is to say, each beyond their, indomitably
separated, extraterrestrial existences

but why “drop down” instead of “raise”,
[t]his mutual kiss …. between us”, one
incidentally wonders, shouldn’t a kiss
move up

“Love”, she then continues, “be false”,
out of, it seems, nowhere, do not hold
your promise of forever, she says, should
her suitor’s “oath” in any way betray his

hn, I asked, where did that come from

what are you talking about here, Elizabeth,
I pondered, which “oath” is to be kept, and
what “joy” is being threatened, you’ll have
to be more specific, dear

and how, furthermore, does this statement
follow from your otherwise reasonably
consecutive text

your love, I’m afraid, is a literary muddle in
this sorry construction, you’re generally,
though always metaphorically intricate,
more penetrable than this, you’ve let your
literary impulse trump your logic on this
one, Elizabeth, we’re not getting it

a poem must be, by definition, coherent, I
think, otherwise it’s nothing but hogwash,
doing damage to the very idea of poetry,
an affront, in the instance, indeed a

for poetry, to my mind, is sacred

then again maybe I’m being too ardent,
too harsh, too inflexible

and, for that matter, what, indeed, is

you define it

you be, for you are, the judge


XXXll. The first time that the sun rose on thine oath – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from “Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXll. The first time that the sun rose on thine oath

The first time that the sun rose on thine oath
To love me, I looked forward to the moon
To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon
And quickly tied to make a lasting troth.
Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;
And, looking on myself, I seemed not one
For such man’s love! – more like an out-of-tune
Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth
To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste,
Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note.
I did not wrong myself so, but I placed
A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float
‘Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced, –
And great souls, at one stroke, may do and dote.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“great souls” may transform those they touch,
to their great honour, and may stay to watch,
and nurture, in proud appreciation of that
transcendental transformation, look at our

but see here Elizabeth Barrett Browning
herself in this very poem, and also those
we’ve touched, been touched by, and

if I’ve been connecting XlXth-Century
Elizabeth Barrett Browning with modern
torch songs, sublime often evocations
of consummate and unfettered love, it
is not without the influence of, indeed,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who opened
the floodgates to our cultural emotional
honesty, name any other otherwise

brave, brave Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
to whom we owe our unadulterated

here is Roberta Flack doing her own
sororal “first time”, an obvious heir
to Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s
tacit permission and poem

here is another, and updated version
of the featured classic, that, however
improbably, in every moment, shines,
blazons, becoming just as, goodness,
unforgettable, just watch


XXX. I see thine image through my tears to-night – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXX. I see thine image through my tears to-night

I see thine image through my tears to-night,
And yet to-day I saw thee smiling. How
Refer the cause? – Belovèd, is it thou
Or I, who makes me sad? The acolyte
Amid the chanted joy and thankful rite
May so fall flat, with pale insensate brow
On the altar-stair. I hear thy voice and vow,
Perplexed, uncertain, since thou art out of sight,
As he, in his swooning ears, the choir’s amen.
Belovèd, dost thou love? or did I see all
The glory as I dreamed, and fainted when
Too vehement light dilated my ideal,
For my soul’s eyes? Will that light come again,
As now these tears come – falling hot and real?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


it’s been a season since we left Elizabeth
Barrett Browning
, flushed by her ardent
metaphorical, surely, exertions, in the
throes of breath[ing] within thy shadow
a new air
“, but now it seems she has
returned to her crushing insecurity, her
winter must’ve been especially barren

you’ll note the distortions in the metre,
akin to musical atonalities

as a poet, Elizabeth, who was evidently
well versed, as it were, in the Classics,
would’ve tinkered away at the form much
the same way a composer would’ve
at the conventions of music, radically
but convincingly if they were good, the
trick was in the balance achieved between
eccentricity and entertainment, artistic
wizardry and Truth, would it work, jarring
incongruities had to rouse if not delight,
as often incongruities can, do, and

Elizabeth is talking like Schoenberg
here, a couple of generations at least
later, notorious for dismantling harmony
in music with his rejection of the tonic
scale, allowing the neighbours to say
about his atonal music, my children
could do it, with patience and time of
course, for his works could often be

her distorted cadences mirror also here,
however, her harried state, and are
mimetically instructive, in other words,
you can feel her distress in the erratic
pulse, or beat

she compares herself to an acolyte, an
attendant at mass, made often to look
like an angel – a boy, incidentally, always,
though that, by now, might’ve changed, I
haven’t kept up with ecclesiastical politics
– who has fainted, “fall[en] flat”, the musical
allusion, you’ll note here, unmistakable

in her consequent netherworld she
wonders if the love you take is equal to
the love you make
is her golden ideal
merely all in her head, or, in himself,
alive before her and apparent, its
actual incarnation

haven’t we all been there

and we’ve all, o, Elizabeth, moved on

though, I’ll grant, nobody has still said
what she had to say better