Top 20 Most Popular Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

These are the top twenty (20) most popular poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

From A Child Asleep to Bianca Among The Nightingales

If you want to know her greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.

Keep reading!.

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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Curse For A Nation


Prologue


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.

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!

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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Year’s Spinning


He listened at the porch that day,
To hear the wheel go on, and on;
And then it stopped, ran back away,
While through the door he brought the sun:
But now my spinning is all done.


He sat beside me, with an oath
That love ne’er ended, once begun;
I smiled, believing for us both,
What was the truth for only one:
And now my spinning is all done.


My mother cursed me that I heard
A young man’s wooing as I spun:
Thanks, cruel mother, for that word,
For I have, since, a harder known!
And now my spinning is all done.


I thought, O God! my first-born’s cry
Both voices to mine ear would drown:
I listened in mine agony,
It was the silence made me groan!
And now my spinning is all done.


Bury me ‘twixt my mother’s grave,
(Who cursed me on her death-bed lone)
And my dead baby’s (God it save!)
Who, not to bless me, would not moan.
And now my spinning is all done.


A stone upon my heart and head,
But no name written on the stone!
Sweet neighbours, whisper low instead,
“This sinner was a loving one,
And now her spinning is all done.”

And let the door ajar remain,
In case he should pass by anon;
And leave the wheel out very plain,
That HE, when passing in the sun,
May see the spinning is all done.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Adequacy


Now, by the verdure on thy thousand hills,
Beloved England, doth the earth appear
Quite good enough for men to overbear
The will of God in, with rebellious wills!
We cannot say the morning-sun fulfils
Ingloriously its course, nor that the clear
Strong stars without significance insphere
Our habitation: we, meantime, our ills
Heap up against this good and lift a cry
Against this work-day world, this ill-spread feast,
As if ourselves were better certainly
Than what we come to. Maker and High Priest,
I ask thee not my joys to multiply,
Only to make me worthier of the least.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

An Apprehension

If all the gentlest-hearted friends I know
Concentred in one heart their gentleness,
That still grew gentler till its pulse was less
For life than pity, I should yet be slow
To bring my own heart nakedly below
The palm of such a friend, that he should press
Motive, condition, means, appliances,
My false ideal joy and fickle woe,
Out full to light and knowledge; I should fear
Some plait between the brows, some rougher chime
In the free voice. O angels, let your flood
Of bitter scorn dash on me! do ye hear
What I say who hear calmly all the time
This everlasting face to face with God?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Change Upon Change


Five months ago the stream did flow,
The lilies bloomed within the sedge,
And we were lingering to and fro,
Where none will track thee in this snow,
Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah, Sweet, be free to love and go!
For if I do not hear thy foot,
The frozen river is as mute,
The flowers have dried down to the root:
And why, since these be changed since May,
Shouldst thou change less than they.


And slow, slow as the winter snow
The tears have drifted to mine eyes;
And my poor cheeks, five months ago
Set blushing at thy praises so,
Put paleness on for a disguise.
Ah, Sweet, be free to praise and go!
For if my face is turned too pale,
It was thine oath that first did fail,
It was thy love proved false and frail,
And why, since these be changed enow,
Should I change less than thou.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Cheerfulness Taught By Reason


I think we are too ready with complaint
In this fair world of God’s. Had we no hope
Indeed beyond the zenith and the slope
Of yon gray blank of sky, we might grow faint
To muse upon eternity’s constraint
Round our aspirant souls; but since the scope
Must widen early, is it well to droop,
For a few days consumed in loss and taint?
O pusillanimous Heart, be comforted
And, like a cheerful traveller, take the road
Singing beside the hedge. What if the bread
Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod
To meet the flints? At least it may be said
‘Because the way is short, I thank thee, God.’

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.

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, if I could find
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
Goes bleating up the moors in weary dearth)
Crying ‘Where are ye, O my loved and loving?’
I know a voice would sound, ‘Daughter, I am.
Can I suffice for Heaven and not for earth?’

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

De Profundis


I


The face, which, duly as the sun,
Rose up for me with life begun,
To mark all bright hours of the day
With hourly love, is dimmed away
And yet my days go on, go on.


II


The tongue which, like a stream, could run
Smooth music from the roughest stone,
And every morning with ‘Good day’
Make each day good, is hushed away,
And yet my days go on, go on.


III


The heart which, like a staff, was one
For mine to lean and rest upon,
The strongest on the longest day
With steadfast love, is caught away,
And yet my days go on, go on.


IV


And cold before my summer’s done,
And deaf in Nature’s general tune,
And fallen too low for special fear,
And here, with hope no longer here,
While the tears drop, my days go on.


V


The world goes whispering to its own,
‘This anguish pierces to the bone;’
And tender friends go sighing round,
‘What love can ever cure this wound?’
My days go on, my days go on.


VI


The past rolls forward on the sun
And makes all night. O dreams begun,
Not to be ended! Ended bliss,
And life that will not end in this!
My days go on, my days go on.


VII


Breath freezes on my lips to moan:
As one alone, once not alone,
I sit and knock at Nature’s door,
Heart-bare, heart-hungry, very poor,
Whose desolated days go on.


VIII


I knock and cry, Undone, undone!
Is there no help, no comfort, none?
No gleaning in the wide wheat plains
Where others drive their loaded wains?
My vacant days go on, go on.


IX


This Nature, though the snows be down,
Thinks kindly of the bird of June:
The little red hip on the tree
Is ripe for such. What is for me,
Whose days so winterly go on?


X


No bird am I, to sing in June,
And dare not ask an equal boon.
Good nests and berries red are Nature’s
To give away to better creatures,
And yet my days go on, go on.


XI


I ask less kindness to be done,
Only to loose these pilgrim shoon,
(Too early worn and grimed) with sweet
Cool deadly touch to these tired feet.
Till days go out which now go on.


XII


Only to lift the turf unmown
From off the earth where it has grown,
Some cubit-space, and say ‘Behold,
Creep in, poor Heart, beneath that fold,
Forgetting how the days go on.’


XIII


What harm would that do? Green anon
The sward would quicken, overshone
By skies as blue; and crickets might
Have leave to chirp there day and night
While my new rest went on, went on.

XIV


From gracious Nature have I won
Such liberal bounty? may I run
So, lizard-like, within her side,
And there be safe, who now am tried
By days that painfully go on?


XV

A Voice reproves me thereupon,
More sweet than Nature’s when the drone
Of bees is sweetest, and more deep
Than when the rivers overleap
The shuddering pines, and thunder on.


XVI


God’s Voice, not Nature’s! Night and noon
He sits upon the great white throne
And listens for the creatures’ praise.
What babble we of days and days?
The Day-spring He, whose days go on.


XVII


He reigns above, He reigns alone;
Systems burn out and have his throne;
Fair mists of seraphs melt and fall
Around Him, changeless amid all,
Ancient of Days, whose days go on.


XVIII


He reigns below, He reigns alone,
And, having life in love forgone
Beneath the crown of sovran thorns,
He reigns the Jealous God. Who mourns
Or rules with Him, while days go on?


XIX


By anguish which made pale the sun,
I hear Him charge his saints that none
Among his creatures anywhere
Blaspheme against Him with despair,
However darkly days go on.


XX


Take from my head the thorn-wreath brown!
No mortal grief deserves that crown.
O supreme Love, chief misery,
The sharp regalia are for Thee
Whose days eternally go on!


XXI


For us, whatever’s undergone,
Thou knowest, willest what is done,
Grief may be joy misunderstood;
Only the Good discerns the good.
I trust Thee while my days go on.


XXII


Whatever’s lost, it first was won;
We will not struggle nor impugn.
Perhaps the cup was broken here,
That Heaven’s new wine might show more clear.
I praise Thee while my days go on.


XXIII


I praise Thee while my days go on;
I love Thee while my days go on:
Through dark and dearth, through fire and frost,
With emptied arms and treasure lost,
I thank Thee while my days go on.


XXIV


And having in thy life-depth thrown
Being and suffering (which are one),
As a child drops his pebble small
Down some deep well, and hears it fall
Smiling so I. Thy days go on.

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 candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the 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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Autumn
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them,
The summer flowers depart,
Sit still, as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.


How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!


The dearest hands that clasp our hands,
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come, as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.


Hear not the wind, view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill
In spring, the sky encircled them,
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe, come winter’s cold,
Come change, and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

To George Sand: A Recognition


True genius, but true woman! dost deny
The woman’s nature with a manly scorn
And break away the gauds and armlets worn
By weaker women in captivity?
Ah, vain denial! that revolted cry
Is sobbed in by a woman’s voice forlorn,
Thy woman’s hair, my sister, all unshorn
Floats back dishevelled strength in agony
Disproving thy man’s name: and while before
The world thou burnest in a poet-fire,
We see thy woman-heart beat evermore
Through the large flame. Beat purer, heart, and higher,
Till God unsex thee on the heavenly shore
Where unincarnate spirits purely aspire!

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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Work


What are we set on earth for? Say, to toil;
Nor seek to leave thy tending of the vines
For all the heat o’ the day, till it declines,
And Death’s mild curfew shall from work assoil.
God did anoint thee with his odorous oil,
To wrestle, not to reign; and He assigns
All thy tears over, like pure crystallines,
For younger fellow-workers of the soil
To wear for amulets. So others shall
Take patience, labor, to their heart and hand
From thy hand and thy heart and thy brave cheer,
And God’s grace fructify through thee to
The least flower with a brimming cup may stand,
And share its dew-drop with another near.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A Woman’s 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!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Bianca Among The Nightingales


The cypress stood up like a church
That night we felt our love would hold,
And saintly moonlight seemed to search
And wash the whole world clean as gold;
The olives crystallized the vales’
Broad slopes until the hills grew strong:
The fireflies and the nightingales
Throbbed each to either, flame and song.
The nightingales, the nightingales.


Upon the angle of its shade
The cypress stood, self-balanced high;
Half up, half down, as double-made,
Along the ground, against the sky.
And we, too! from such soul-height went
Such leaps of blood, so blindly driven,
We scarce knew if our nature meant
Most passionate earth or intense heaven.
The nightingales, the nightingales.


We paled with love, we shook with love,
We kissed so close we could not vow;
Till Giulio whispered, ‘Sweet, above
God’s Ever guarantees this Now.’
And through his words the nightingales
Drove straight and full their long clear call,
Like arrows through heroic mails,
And love was awful in it all.
The nightingales, the nightingales.


O cold white moonlight of the north,
Refresh these pulses, quench this hell!
O coverture of death drawn forth
Across this garden-chamber… well!
But what have nightingales to do
In gloomy England, called the free.
(Yes, free to die in!’) when we two
Are sundered, singing still to me?
And still they sing, the nightingales.


I think I hear him, how he cried
‘My own soul’s life’ between their notes.
Each man has but one soul supplied,
And that’s immortal. Though his throat’s
On fire with passion now, to her
He can’t say what to me he said!
And yet he moves her, they aver.
The nightingales sing through my head.
The nightingales, the nightingales.


He says to her what moves her most.
He would not name his soul within
Her hearing, rather pays her cost
With praises to her lips and chin.
Man has but one soul, ’tis ordained,
And each soul but one love, I add;
Yet souls are damned and love’s profaned.
These nightingales will sing me mad!
The nightingales, the nightingales.


I marvel how the birds can sing.
There’s little difference, in their view,
Betwixt our Tuscan trees that spring
As vital flames into the blue,
And dull round blots of foliage meant
Like saturated sponges here
To suck the fogs up. As content
Is he too in this land, ’tis clear.
And still they sing, the nightingales.


My native Florence! dear, forgone!
I see across the Alpine ridge
How the last feast-day of Saint John
Shot rockets from Carraia bridge.
The luminous city, tall with fire,
Trod deep down in that river of ours,
While many a boat with lamp and choir
Skimmed birdlike over glittering towers.
I will not hear these nightingales.


I seem to float, we seem to float
Down Arno’s stream in festive guise;
A boat strikes flame into our boat,
And up that lady seems to rise
As then she rose. The shock had flashed
A vision on us! What a head,
What leaping eyeballs! beauty dashed
To splendour by a sudden dread.
And still they sing, the nightingales.


Too bold to sin, too weak to die;
Such women are so. As for me,
I would we had drowned there, he and I,
That moment, loving perfectly.
He had not caught her with her loosed
Gold ringlets’ rarer in the south’
Nor heard the ‘Grazie tanto’ bruised
To sweetness by her English mouth.
And still they sing, the nightingales.


She had not reached him at my heart
With her fine tongue, as snakes indeed
Kill flies; nor had I, for my part,
Yearned after, in my desperate need,
And followed him as he did her
To coasts left bitter by the tide,
Whose very nightingales, elsewhere
Delighting, torture and deride!
For still they sing, the nightingales.


A worthless woman! mere cold clay
As all false things are! but so fair,
She takes the breath of men away
Who gaze upon her unaware.
I would not play her larcenous tricks
To have her looks! She lied and stole,
And spat into my love’s pure pyx
The rank saliva of her soul.
And still they sing, the nightingales.


I would not for her white and pink,
Though such he likes her grace of limb,
Though such he has praised nor yet, I think,
For life itself, though spent with him,
Commit such sacrilege, affront
God’s nature which is love, intrude
‘Twixt two affianced souls, and hunt
Like spiders, in the altar’s wood.
I cannot bear these nightingales.


If she chose sin, some gentler guise
She might have sinned in, so it seems:
She might have pricked out both my eyes,
And I still seen him in my dreams!
Or drugged me in my soup or wine,
Nor left me angry afterward:
To die here with his hand in mine
His breath upon me, were not hard.
(Our Lady hush these nightingales!)


But set a springe for him, ‘mio ben’,
My only good, my first last love!
Though Christ knows well what sin is, when
He sees some things done they must move
Himself to wonder. Let her pass.
I think of her by night and day.
Must I too join her’ out, alas!’
With Giulio, in each word I say!
And evermore the nightingales!


Giulio, my Giulio! sing they so,
And you be silent? Do I speak,
And you not hear? An arm you throw
Round some one, and I feel so weak?
Oh, owl-like birds! They sing for spite,
They sing for hate, they sing for doom!
They’ll sing through death who sing through night,
They’ll sing and stun me in the tomb
The nightingales, the nightingales!

These poems are really astounding! She’s one of the English poets who have one of the largest extant collections of juvenilia. She also started writing poetry from the age of eleven; no wonder her work had a preeminent influence on prominent writers of the day. She’s amazing!

Of course, My Heart And I is my all-time favorite poem of hers. I could relate to its message from my past experiences, and I’ve dealt with it, so can you. 🙂

What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

Do you still want to add another of her poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉

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