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Best Famous Elizabeth Barrett Browning Poems

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Written 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.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

The Deserted Garden

I MIND me in the days departed, 
How often underneath the sun 
With childish bounds I used to run 
To a garden long deserted.
The beds and walks were vanish'd quite; 5 And wheresoe'er had struck the spade, The greenest grasses Nature laid, To sanctify her right.
I call'd the place my wilderness, For no one enter'd there but I.
10 The sheep look'd in, the grass to espy, And pass'd it ne'ertheless.
The trees were interwoven wild, And spread their boughs enough about To keep both sheep and shepherd out, 15 But not a happy child.
Adventurous joy it was for me! I crept beneath the boughs, and found A circle smooth of mossy ground Beneath a poplar-tree.
20 Old garden rose-trees hedged it in, Bedropt with roses waxen-white, Well satisfied with dew and light, And careless to be seen.
Long years ago, it might befall, 25 When all the garden flowers were trim, The grave old gardener prided him On these the most of all.
Some Lady, stately overmuch, Here moving with a silken noise, 30 Has blush'd beside them at the voice That liken'd her to such.
Or these, to make a diadem, She often may have pluck'd and twined; Half-smiling as it came to mind, 35 That few would look at them.
O, little thought that Lady proud, A child would watch her fair white rose, When buried lay her whiter brows, And silk was changed for shroud!¡ª 40 Nor thought that gardener (full of scorns For men unlearn'd and simple phrase) A child would bring it all its praise, By creeping through the thorns! To me upon my low moss seat, 45 Though never a dream the roses sent Of science or love's compliment, I ween they smelt as sweet.
It did not move my grief to see The trace of human step departed: 50 Because the garden was deserted, The blither place for me! Friends, blame me not! a narrow ken Hath childhood 'twixt the sun and sward: We draw the moral afterward¡ª 55 We feel the gladness then.
And gladdest hours for me did glide In silence at the rose-tree wall: A thrush made gladness musical Upon the other side.
60 Nor he nor I did e'er incline To peck or pluck the blossoms white:¡ª How should I know but that they might Lead lives as glad as mine? To make my hermit-home complete, 65 I brought clear water from the spring Praised in its own low murmuring, And cresses glossy wet.
And so, I thought, my likeness grew (Without the melancholy tale) 70 To 'gentle hermit of the dale,' And Angelina too.
For oft I read within my nook Such minstrel stories; till the breeze Made sounds poetic in the trees, 75 And then I shut the book.
If I shut this wherein I write, I hear no more the wind athwart Those trees, nor feel that childish heart Delighting in delight.
80 My childhood from my life is parted, My footstep from the moss which drew Its fairy circle round: anew The garden is deserted.
Another thrush may there rehearse 85 The madrigals which sweetest are; No more for me!¡ªmyself afar Do sing a sadder verse.
Ah me! ah me! when erst I lay In that child's-nest so greenly wrought, 90 I laugh'd unto myself and thought, 'The time will pass away.
' And still I laugh'd, and did not fear But that, whene'er was pass'd away The childish time, some happier play 95 My womanhood would cheer.
I knew the time would pass away; And yet, beside the rose-tree wall, Dear God, how seldom, if at all, Did I look up to pray! 100 The time is past: and now that grows The cypress high among the trees, And I behold white sepulchres As well as the white rose,¡ª When wiser, meeker thoughts are given, 105 And I have learnt to lift my face, Reminded how earth's greenest place The colour draws from heaven,¡ª It something saith for earthly pain, But more for heavenly promise free, 110 That I who was, would shrink to be That happy child again.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

Human Life's Mystery

 We sow the glebe, we reap the corn, 
We build the house where we may rest, 
And then, at moments, suddenly, 
We look up to the great wide sky, 
Inquiring wherefore we were born… 
For earnest or for jest? 

The senses folding thick and dark 
About the stifled soul within, 
We guess diviner things beyond, 
And yearn to them with yearning fond; 
We strike out blindly to a mark 
Believed in, but not seen.
We vibrate to the pant and thrill Wherewith Eternity has curled In serpent-twine about God’s seat; While, freshening upward to His feet, In gradual growth His full-leaved will Expands from world to world.
And, in the tumult and excess Of act and passion under sun, We sometimes hear—oh, soft and far, As silver star did touch with star, The kiss of Peace and Righteousness Through all things that are done.
God keeps His holy mysteries Just on the outside of man’s dream; In diapason slow, we think To hear their pinions rise and sink, While they float pure beneath His eyes, Like swans adown a stream.
Abstractions, are they, from the forms Of His great beauty?—exaltations From His great glory?—strong previsions Of what we shall be?—intuitions Of what we are—in calms and storms, Beyond our peace and passions? Things nameless! which, in passing so, Do stroke us with a subtle grace.
We say, ‘Who passes?’—they are dumb.
We cannot see them go or come: Their touches fall soft, cold, as snow Upon a blind man’s face.
Yet, touching so, they draw above Our common thoughts to Heaven’s unknown, Our daily joy and pain advance To a divine significance, Our human love—O mortal love, That light is not its own! And sometimes horror chills our blood To be so near such mystic Things, And we wrap round us for defence Our purple manners, moods of sense— As angels from the face of God Stand hidden in their wings.
And sometimes through life’s heavy swound We grope for them!—with strangled breath We stretch our hands abroad and try To reach them in our agony,— And widen, so, the broad life-wound Which soon is large enough for death.

Written 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.

Written 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.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

From ‘The Soul's Travelling'

 God, God! 
With a child’s voice I cry, 
Weak, sad, confidingly— 
God, God! 
Thou knowest, eyelids, raised not always up 
Unto Thy love (as none of ours are), droop 
As ours, o’er many a tear! 
Thou knowest, though Thy universe is broad, 
Two little tears suffice to cover all: 
Thou knowest, Thou, who art so prodigal 
Of beauty, we are oft but stricken deer 
Expiring in the woods—that care for none 
Of those delightsome flowers they die upon.
O blissful Mouth which breathed the mournful breath We name our souls, self-spoilt!—by that strong passion Which paled Thee once with sighs,—by that strong death Which made Thee once unbreathing—from the wrack Themselves have called around them, call them back, Back to Thee in continuous aspiration! For here, O Lord, For here they travel vainly,—vainly pass From city-pavement to untrodden sward, Where the lark finds her deep nest in the grass Cold with the earth’s last dew.
Yea, very vain The greatest speed of all these souls of men Unless they travel upward to the throne Where sittest THOU, the satisfying ONE, With help for sins and holy perfectings For all requirements—while the archangel, raising Unto Thy face his full ecstatic gazing, Forgets the rush and rapture of his wings.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

A Child Asleep

 How he sleepeth! having drunken
Weary childhood's mandragore,
From his pretty eyes have sunken
Pleasures, to make room for more---
Sleeping near the withered nosegay, which he pulled the day before.
Nosegays! leave them for the waking: Throw them earthward where they grew.
Dim are such, beside the breaking Amaranths he looks unto--- Folded eyes see brighter colours than the open ever do.
Heaven-flowers, rayed by shadows golden From the paths they sprang beneath, Now perhaps divinely holden, Swing against him in a wreath--- We may think so from the quickening of his bloom and of his breath.
Vision unto vision calleth, While the young child dreameth on.
Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth With the glory thou hast won! Darker wert thou in the garden, yestermorn, by summer sun.
We should see the spirits ringing Round thee,---were the clouds away.
'Tis the child-heart draws them, singing In the silent-seeming clay--- Singing!---Stars that seem the mutest, go in music all the way.
As the moths around a taper, As the bees around a rose, As the gnats around a vapour,--- So the Spirits group and close Round about a holy childhood, as if drinking its repose.
Shapes of brightness overlean thee,--- Flash their diadems of youth On the ringlets which half screen thee,--- While thou smilest, .
.
.
not in sooth Thy smile .
.
.
but the overfair one, dropt from some aethereal mouth.
Haply it is angels' duty, During slumber, shade by shade: To fine down this childish beauty To the thing it must be made, Ere the world shall bring it praises, or the tomb shall see it fade.
Softly, softly! make no noises! Now he lieth dead and dumb--- Now he hears the angels' voices Folding silence in the room--- Now he muses deep the meaning of the Heaven-words as they come.
Speak not! he is consecrated--- Breathe no breath across his eyes.
Lifted up and separated, On the hand of God he lies, In a sweetness beyond touching---held in cloistral sanctities.
Could ye bless him---father---mother ? Bless the dimple in his cheek? Dare ye look at one another, And the benediction speak? Would ye not break out in weeping, and confess yourselves too weak? He is harmless---ye are sinful,--- Ye are troubled---he, at ease: From his slumber, virtue winful Floweth outward with increase--- Dare not bless him! but be blessed by his peace---and go in peace.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

A Dead Rose

 O Rose! who dares to name thee?
No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet;
But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble-wheat,---
Kept seven years in a drawer---thy titles shame thee.
The breeze that used to blow thee Between the hedgerow thorns, and take away An odour up the lane to last all day,--- If breathing now,---unsweetened would forego thee.
The sun that used to smite thee, And mix his glory in thy gorgeous urn, Till beam appeared to bloom, and flower to burn,--- If shining now,---with not a hue would light thee.
The dew that used to wet thee, And, white first, grow incarnadined, because It lay upon thee where the crimson was,--- If dropping now,---would darken where it met thee.
The fly that lit upon thee, To stretch the tendrils of its tiny feet, Along thy leaf's pure edges, after heat,--- If lighting now,---would coldly overrun thee.
The bee that once did suck thee, And build thy perfumed ambers up his hive, And swoon in thee for joy, till scarce alive,--- If passing now,---would blindly overlook thee.
The heart doth recognise thee, Alone, alone! The heart doth smell thee sweet, Doth view thee fair, doth judge thee most complete,--- Though seeing now those changes that disguise thee.
Yes, and the heart doth owe thee More love, dead rose! than to such roses bold As Julia wears at dances, smiling cold!--- Lie still upon this heart---which breaks below thee!

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

A Curse For A Nation

 I heard an angel speak last night,
And he said 'Write!
Write a Nation's curse for me,
And send it over the Western Sea.
' I faltered, taking up the word: 'Not so, my lord! If curses must be, choose another To send thy curse against my brother.
'For I am bound by gratitude, By love and blood, To brothers of mine across the sea, Who stretch out kindly hands to me.
' 'Therefore,' the voice said, 'shalt thou write My curse to-night.
From the summits of love a curse is driven, As lightning is from the tops of heaven.
' 'Not so,' I answered.
'Evermore My heart is sore For my own land's sins: for little feet Of children bleeding along the street: 'For parked-up honors that gainsay The right of way: For almsgiving through a door that is Not open enough for two friends to kiss: 'For love of freedom which abates Beyond the Straits: For patriot virtue starved to vice on Self-praise, self-interest, and suspicion: 'For an oligarchic parliament, And bribes well-meant.
What curse to another land assign, When heavy-souled for the sins of mine?' 'Therefore,' the voice said, 'shalt thou write My curse to-night.
Because thou hast strength to see and hate A foul thing done within thy gate.
' 'Not so,' I answered once again.
'To curse, choose men.
For I, a woman, have only known How the heart melts and the tears run down.
' 'Therefore,' the voice said, 'shalt thou write My curse to-night.
Some women weep and curse, I say (And no one marvels), night and day.
'And thou shalt take their part to-night, Weep and write.
A curse from the depths of womanhood Is very salt, and bitter, and good.
' So thus I wrote, and mourned indeed, What all may read.
And thus, as was enjoined on me, I send it over the Western Sea.
The Curse Because ye have broken your own chain With the strain Of brave men climbing a Nation's height, Yet thence bear down with brand and thong On souls of others, -- for this wrong This is the curse.
Write.
Because yourselves are standing straight In the state Of Freedom's foremost acolyte, Yet keep calm footing all the time On writhing bond-slaves, -- for this crime This is the curse.
Write.
Because ye prosper in God's name, With a claim To honor in the old world's sight, Yet do the fiend's work perfectly In strangling martyrs, -- for this lie This is the curse.
Write.
Ye shall watch while kings conspire Round the people's smouldering fire, And, warm for your part, Shall never dare -- O shame! To utter the thought into flame Which burns at your heart.
This is the curse.
Write.
Ye shall watch while nations strive With the bloodhounds, die or survive, Drop faint from their jaws, Or throttle them backward to death; And only under your breath Shall favor the cause.
This is the curse.
Write.
Ye shall watch while strong men draw The nets of feudal law To strangle the weak; And, counting the sin for a sin, Your soul shall be sadder within Than the word ye shall speak.
This is the curse.
Write.
When good men are praying erect That Christ may avenge His elect And deliver the earth, The prayer in your ears, said low, Shall sound like the tramp of a foe That's driving you forth.
This is the curse.
Write.
When wise men give you their praise, They shall praise in the heat of the phrase, As if carried too far.
When ye boast your own charters kept true, Ye shall blush; for the thing which ye do Derides what ye are.
This is the curse.
Write.
When fools cast taunts at your gate, Your scorn ye shall somewhat abate As ye look o'er the wall; For your conscience, tradition, and name Explode with a deadlier blame Than the worst of them all.
This is the curse.
Write.
Go, wherever ill deeds shall be done, Go, plant your flag in the sun Beside the ill-doers! And recoil from clenching the curse Of God's witnessing Universe With a curse of yours.
This is the curse.
Write.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

My Heart and I

 I.
ENOUGH ! we're tired, my heart and I.
We sit beside the headstone thus, And wish that name were carved for us.
The moss reprints more tenderly The hard types of the mason's knife, As heaven's sweet life renews earth's life With which we're tired, my heart and I.
II.
You see we're tired, my heart and I.
We dealt with books, we trusted men, And in our own blood drenched the pen, As if such colours could not fly.
We walked too straight for fortune's end, We loved too true to keep a friend ; At last we're tired, my heart and I.
III.
How tired we feel, my heart and I ! We seem of no use in the world ; Our fancies hang grey and uncurled About men's eyes indifferently ; Our voice which thrilled you so, will let You sleep; our tears are only wet : What do we here, my heart and I ? IV.
So tired, so tired, my heart and I ! It was not thus in that old time When Ralph sat with me 'neath the lime To watch the sunset from the sky.
`Dear love, you're looking tired,' he said; I, smiling at him, shook my head : 'Tis now we're tired, my heart and I.
V.
So tired, so tired, my heart and I ! Though now none takes me on his arm To fold me close and kiss me warm Till each quick breath end in a sigh Of happy languor.
Now, alone, We lean upon this graveyard stone, Uncheered, unkissed, my heart and I.
VI.
Tired out we are, my heart and I.
Suppose the world brought diadems To tempt us, crusted with loose gems Of powers and pleasures ? Let it try.
We scarcely care to look at even A pretty child, or God's blue heaven, We feel so tired, my heart and I.
VII.
Yet who complains ? My heart and I ? In this abundant earth no doubt Is little room for things worn out : Disdain them, break them, throw them by And if before the days grew rough We once were loved, used, -- well enough, I think, we've fared, my heart and I.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

A Sea-Side Walk

 We walked beside the sea,
After a day which perished silently
Of its own glory---like the Princess weird
Who, combating the Genius, scorched and seared,
Uttered with burning breath, 'Ho! victory!'
And sank adown, an heap of ashes pale;
So runs the Arab tale.
The sky above us showed An universal and unmoving cloud, On which, the cliffs permitted us to see Only the outline of their majesty, As master-minds, when gazed at by the crowd! And, shining with a gloom, the water grey Swang in its moon-taught way.
Nor moon nor stars were out.
They did not dare to tread so soon about, Though trembling, in the footsteps of the sun.
The light was neither night's nor day's, but one Which, life-like, had a beauty in its doubt; And Silence's impassioned breathings round Seemed wandering into sound.
O solemn-beating heart Of nature! I have knowledge that thou art Bound unto man's by cords he cannot sever--- And, what time they are slackened by him ever, So to attest his own supernal part, Still runneth thy vibration fast and strong, The slackened cord along.
For though we never spoke Of the grey water anal the shaded rock,--- Dark wave and stone, unconsciously, were fused Into the plaintive speaking that we used, Of absent friends and memories unforsook; And, had we seen each other's face, we had Seen haply, each was sad.

Written 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.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

Comfort

 SPEAK low to me, my Saviour, low and sweet
From out the hallelujahs, sweet and low
Lest I should fear and fall, and miss Thee so
Who art not missed by any that entreat.
Speak to mo as to Mary at thy feet ! And if no precious gums my hands bestow, Let my tears drop like amber while I go In reach of thy divinest voice complete In humanest affection -- thus, in sooth, To lose the sense of losing.
As a child, Whose song-bird seeks the wood for evermore Is sung to in its stead by mother's mouth Till, sinking on her breast, love-reconciled, He sleeps the faster that he wept before.

Written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning |

A Womans Shortcomings

 She has laughed as softly as if she sighed,
She has counted six, and over,
Of a purse well filled, and a heart well tried -
Oh, each a worthy lover!
They "give her time"; for her soul must slip
Where the world has set the grooving;
She will lie to none with her fair red lip:
But love seeks truer loving.
She trembles her fan in a sweetness dumb, As her thoughts were beyond recalling; With a glance for one, and a glance for some, From her eyelids rising and falling; Speaks common words with a blushful air, Hears bold words, unreproving; But her silence says - what she never will swear - And love seeks better loving.
Go, lady! lean to the night-guitar, And drop a smile to the bringer; Then smile as sweetly, when he is far, At the voice of an in-door singer.
Bask tenderly beneath tender eyes; Glance lightly, on their removing; And join new vows to old perjuries - But dare not call it loving! Unless you can think, when the song is done, No other is soft in the rhythm; Unless you can feel, when left by One, That all men else go with him; Unless you can know, when unpraised by his breath, That your beauty itself wants proving; Unless you can swear "For life, for death!" - Oh, fear to call it loving! Unless you can muse in a crowd all day On the absent face that fixed you; Unless you can love, as the angels may, With the breadth of heaven betwixt you; Unless you can dream that his faith is fast, Through behoving and unbehoving; Unless you can die when the dream is past - Oh, never call it loving!

Written 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?'