An old school friend comments on Facebook, “I need more poetry.” Well, here’s some …
Back when I started this blog, I included among the topics that I would be covering “bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.” I haven’t done too badly on the grammar side, but much of the poetry has diverged into 20th century song lyrics. But today I’m returning to the roots of the blog. My very first Poetry Corner featured one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, and I’m returning to that well for another drink.
Elizabeth Barrett was raised in a protected environment by parents who would be considered strict even by Victorian standards. She was sickly most of her life, she seldom left her bedroom, let alone the house, and one of the restrictions her father placed upon her was that she would never get married. That changed when she and Robert Browning fell in love with each other. They exchanged correspondence in secret, and eventually they were married secretly. Sonnets from the Portuguese grew out of the poems that she wrote to him in secret.
Most readers are familiar with sonnet XLIII, which begins with the line, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” However, they’re all moving. Here is one that speaks to me:
Sonnets from the Portuguese XXVI
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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 vanishing eyes. Then thou didst come—to be,
Belovèd, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendour (better, yet the same,
As river-water hallowed into fonts),
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame
My soul with satisfaction of all wants;
Because God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.
Labels: friends, grammar, poetry, writing