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Best Famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning Poems

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by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Grief

I TELL you hopeless grief is passionless; 
That only men incredulous of despair  
Half-taught in anguish through the midnight air 
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access 
Of shrieking and reproach.
Full desertness 5 In souls as countries lieth silent-bare Under the blanching vertical eye-glare Of the absolute Heavens.
Deep-hearted man express Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death¡ª Most like a monumental statue set 10 In everlasting watch and moveless woe Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet: If it could weep it could arise and go.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Consolation

ALL are not taken; there are left behind 
Living Belov¨¨ds tender looks to bring 
And make the daylight still a happy thing  
And tender voices to make soft the wind: 
But if it were not so¡ªif I could find 5 
No love in all this world for comforting  
Nor any path but hollowly did ring 
Where 'dust to dust' the love from life disjoin'd; 
And if before those sepulchres unmoving 
I stood alone (as some forsaken lamb 10 
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth) 
Crying 'Where are ye O my loved and loving?'¡ª 
I know a voice would sound 'Daughter I AM.
Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?'


More great poems below...

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

A Musical Instrument

WHAT was he doing the great god Pan  
Down in the reeds by the river? 
Spreading ruin and scattering ban  
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat  
And breaking the golden lilies afloat 5 
With the dragon-fly on the river.
He tore out a reed the great god Pan From the deep cool bed of the river; The limpid water turbidly ran And the broken lilies a-dying lay 10 And the dragon-fly had fled away Ere he brought it out of the river.
High on the shore sat the great god Pan While turbidly flow'd the river; And hack'd and hew'd as a great god can 15 With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed To prove it fresh from the river.
He cut it short did the great god Pan (How tall it stood in the river!) 20 Then drew the pith like the heart of a man Steadily from the outside ring And notch'd the poor dry empty thing In holes as he sat by the river.
'This is the way ' laugh'd the great god Pan 25 (Laugh'd while he sat by the river) 'The only way since gods began To make sweet music they could succeed.
' Then dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed He blew in power by the river.
30 Sweet sweet sweet O Pan! Piercing sweet by the river! Blinding sweet O great god Pan! The sun on the hill forgot to die And the lilies revived and the dragon-fly 35 Came back to dream on the river.
Yet half a beast is the great god Pan To laugh as he sits by the river Making a poet out of a man: The true gods sigh for the cost and pain¡ª 40 For the reed which grows nevermore again As a reed with the reeds of the river.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Meeting at Night

        I.
The grey sea and the long black land; And the yellow half-moon large and low; And the startled little waves that leap In fiery ringlets from their sleep, As I gain the cove with pushing prow, And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.
II.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach; Three fields to cross till a farm appears; A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch And blue spurt of a lighted match, And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears, Than the two hearts beating each to each!


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnets from the Portuguese v

WHEN our two souls stand up erect and strong  
Face to face silent drawing nigh and nigher  
Until the lengthening wings break into fire 
At either curving point ¡ªwhat bitter wrong 
Can the earth do us that we should not long 5 
Be here contented? Think! In mounting higher  
The angels would press on us and aspire 
To drop some golden orb of perfect song 
Into our deep dear silence.
Let us stay Rather on earth Belov¨¨d¡ªwhere the unfit 10 Contrarious moods of men recoil away And isolate pure spirits and permit A place to stand and love in for a day With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnets from the Portuguese i

I THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung 
Of the sweet years the dear and wish'd-for years  
Who each one in a gracious hand appears 
To bear a gift for mortals old or young: 
And as I mused it in his antique tongue 5 
I saw in gradual vision through my tears 
The sweet sad years the melancholy years¡ª 
Those of my own life who by turns had flung 
A shadow across me.
Straightway I was 'ware So weeping how a mystic Shape did move 10 Behind me and drew me backward by the hair; And a voice said in mastery while I strove 'Guess now who holds thee?'¡ª'Death ' I said.
But there The silver answer rang¡ª'Not Death but Love.
'


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Lost Mistress

        I.
All's over, then: does truth sound bitter As one at first believes? Hark, 'tis the sparrows' good-night twitter About your cottage eaves! II.
And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly, I noticed that, to-day; One day more bursts them open fully ---You know the red turns grey.
III.
To-morrow we meet the same then, dearest? May I take your hand in mine? Mere friends are we,---well, friends the merest Keep much that I resign: IV.
For each glance of the eye so bright and black, Though I keep with heart's endeavour,--- Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back, Though it stay in my soul for ever!--- V.
Yet I will but say what mere friends say, Or only a thought stronger; I will hold your hand but as long as all may, Or so very little longer!


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnets from the Portuguese iii

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 5 Serenely in the sunshine as before Without the sense of that which I forbore¡ª Thy touch upon the palm.
The widest land Doom takes to part us leaves thy heart in mine With pulses that beat double.
What I do 10 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.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnets from the Portuguese ii

UNLIKE are we unlike O princely Heart! 
Unlike our uses and our destinies.
Our ministering two angels look surprise On one another as they strike athwart Their wings in passing.
Thou bethink thee art 5 A guest for queens to social pageantries With gages from a hundred brighter eyes Than tears even can make mine to play thy part Of chief musician.
What hast thou to do With looking from the lattice-lights at me¡ª 10 A poor tired wandering singer singing through The dark and leaning up a cypress tree? The chrism is on thine head¡ªon mine the dew¡ª And Death must dig the level where these agree.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnets from the Portuguese iv

IF thou must love me let it be for naught 
Except for love's sake only.
Do not say 'I love her for her smile¡ªher look¡ªher way Of speaking gently ¡ªfor a trick of thought That falls in well with mine and certes brought 5 A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'¡ª For these things in themselves Belov¨¨d may Be changed or change for thee¡ªand love so wrought May be unwrought so.
Neither love me for Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry: 10 A creature might forget to weep who bore Thy comfort long and lose thy love thereby! But love me for love's sake that evermore Thou mayst love on through love's eternity.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Rosalinds Scroll

I LEFT thee last a child at heart  
A woman scarce in years: 
I come to thee a solemn corpse 
Which neither feels nor fears.
I have no breath to use in sighs; 5 They laid the dead-weights on mine eyes To seal them safe from tears.
Look on me with thine own calm look: I meet it calm as thou.
No look of thine can change this smile 10 Or break thy sinful vow: I tell thee that my poor scorn'd heart Is of thine earth¡ªthine earth¡ªa part: It cannot vex thee now.
I have pray'd for thee with bursting sob 15 When passion's course was free; I have pray'd for thee with silent lips In the anguish none could see; They whisper'd oft 'She sleepeth soft'¡ª But I only pray'd for thee.
20 Go to! I pray for thee no more: The corpse's tongue is still; Its folded fingers point to heaven But point there stiff and chill: No farther wrong no farther woe 25 Hath licence from the sin below Its tranquil heart to thrill.
I charge thee by the living's prayer And the dead's silentness To wring from out thy soul a cry 30 Which God shall hear and bless! Lest Heaven's own palm droop in my hand And pale among the saints I stand A saint companionless.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

How do I Love thee? Let me Count the Ways

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.


by Vachel Lindsay | |

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sat gossiping with Robert.
(She was really a raving beauty in her day.
With Mary Pickford curls in clouds and whirls.
) She was trying to think of something nice to say, So she pointed to a page by her fellow star and sage, And said: "I wish that I could write that way!"


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Perplexed Music

 EXPERIENCE, like a pale musician, holds
A dulcimer of patience in his hand,
Whence harmonies, we cannot understand,
Of God; will in his worlds, the strain unfolds
In sad-perplexed minors: deathly colds
Fall on us while we hear, and countermand
Our sanguine heart back from the fancyland
With nightingales in visionary wolds.
We murmur ' Where is any certain tune Or measured music in such notes as these ? ' But angels, leaning from the golden seat, Are not so minded their fine ear hath won The issue of completed cadences, And, smiling down the stars, they whisper-- SWEET.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

The Seraph and Poet

 The seraph sings before the manifest
God-One, and in the burning of the Seven,
And with the full life of consummate
Heaving beneath him like a mother's
Warm with her first-born's slumber in that
The poet sings upon the earth grave-riven,
Before the naughty world, soon self-forgiven
For wronging him,--and in the darkness prest
From his own soul by worldly weights.
Even so, Sing, seraph with the glory ! heaven is high; Sing, poet with the sorrow ! earth is low: The universe's inward voices cry ' Amen ' to either song of joy and woe: Sing, seraph,--poet,--sing on equally !


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Work And Contemplation

 The woman singeth at her spinning-wheel
A pleasant chant, ballad or barcarole;
She thinketh of her song, upon the whole,
Far more than of her flax; and yet the reel
Is full, and artfully her fingers feel
With quick adjustment, provident control,
The lines--too subtly twisted to unroll--
Out to a perfect thread.
I hence appeal To the dear Christian Church--that we may do Our Father's business in these temples mirk, Thus swift and steadfast, thus intent and strong; While thus, apart from toil, our souls pursue Some high calm spheric tune, and prove our work The better for the sweetness of our song.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Insufficiency

 When I attain to utter forth in verse
Some inward thought, my soul throbs audibly
Along my pulses, yearning to be free
And something farther, fuller, higher, rehearse
To the individual, true, and the universe,
In consummation of right harmony:
But, like a wind-exposed distorted tree,
We are blown against for ever by the curse
Which breathes through Nature.
Oh, the world is weak ! The effluence of each is false to all, And what we best conceive we fail to speak.
Wait, soul, until thine ashen garments fall, And then resume thy broken strains, and seek Fit peroration without let or thrall.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnet 30 - 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?—Beloved, 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.
Beloved, 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?


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

The Look

 The Saviour looked on Peter.
Ay, no word, No gesture of reproach; the Heavens serene Though heavy with armed justice, did not lean Their thunders that way: the forsaken Lord Looked only, on the traitor.
None record What that look was, none guess; for those who have seen Wronged lovers loving through a death-pang keen, Or pale-cheeked martyrs smiling to a sword, Have missed Jehovah at the judgment-call.
And Peter, from the height of blasphemy-- 'I never knew this man '--did quail and fall As knowing straight THAT GOD; and turned free And went out speechless from the face of all And filled the silenc, weeping bitterly.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnet 02 - But only three in all Gods universe

 But only three in all God's universe
Have heard this word thou hast said,—Himself, beside
Thee speaking, and me listening! and replied
One of us .
.
.
that was God, .
.
.
and laid the curse So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce My sight from seeing thee,—that if I had died, The deathweights, placed there, would have signified Less absolute exclusion.
'Nay' is worse From God than from all others, O my friend! Men could not part us with their worldly jars, Nor the seas change us, nor the tempests bend; Our hands would touch for all the mountain-bars: And, heaven being rolled between us at the end, We should but vow the faster for the stars.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Sonnet 36 - 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 enclasped 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.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Chorus of Eden Spirits

 HEARKEN, oh hearken! let your souls behind you 
Turn, gently moved! 
Our voices feel along the Dread to find you, 
O lost, beloved! 
Through the thick-shielded and strong-marshalled angels, 
They press and pierce: 
Our requiems follow fast on our evangels,— 
Voice throbs in verse.
We are but orphaned spirits left in Eden A time ago: God gave us golden cups, and we were bidden To feed you so.
But now our right hand hath no cup remaining, No work to do, The mystic hydromel is spilt, and staining The whole earth through.
Most ineradicable stains, for showing (Not interfused!) That brighter colours were the world’s foregoing, Than shall be used.
Hearken, oh hearken! ye shall hearken surely For years and years, The noise beside you, dripping coldly, purely, Of spirits’ tears.
The yearning to a beautiful denied you, Shall strain your powers.
Ideal sweetnesses shall over-glide you, Resumed from ours.
In all your music, our pathetic minor Your ears shall cross; And all good gifts shall mind you of diviner, With sense of loss.
We shall be near you in your poet-languors And wild extremes, What time ye vex the desert with vain angers, Or mock with dreams.
And when upon you, weary after roaming, Death’s seal is put, By the foregone ye shall discern the coming, Through eyelids shut.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

Irreparableness

 I HAVE been in the meadows all the day
And gathered there the nosegay that you see
Singing within myself as bird or bee
When such do field-work on a morn of May.
But, now I look upon my flowers, decay Has met them in my hands more fatally Because more warmly clasped,--and sobs are free To come instead of songs.
What do you say, Sweet counsellors, dear friends ? that I should go Back straightway to the fields and gather more ? Another, sooth, may do it, but not I ! My heart is very tired, my strength is low, My hands are full of blossoms plucked before, Held dead within them till myself shall die.


by Elizabeth Barrett Browning | |

II

 But only three in all God's universe
Have heard this word thou hast said,--Himself, beside
Thee speaking, and me listening ! and replied
One of us .
.
.
that was God, .
.
.
and laid the curse So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce My sight from seeing thee,--that if I had died, The deathweights, placed there, would have signified Less absolute exclusion.
'Nay' is worse From God than from all others, O my friend ! Men could not part us with their worldly jars, Nor the seas change us, nor the tempests bend; Our hands would touch for all the mountain-bars: And, heaven being rolled between us at the end, We should but vow the faster for the stars.