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And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains, and of all that we behold
From this green earth, — of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half create
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In Nature, and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian, of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
The most learned, and perhaps the most talented, of English female poets. Art, life, politics, and religion are treated by her with great vigor of thought, and simplicity of language.
PRINCIPAL WRITINGS. “ Casa Guidi Windows," a political poem; 6 The Seraphim; " " A Drama of Exile;" “ The Duchess May;" “Lady Geraldine's Courtship; " " Bertha in the Lane;” “The Cry of the Children;" · Cowper's Grave;" “ Prometheus Bound,” translation from Æschylus; and “Aurora Leigh,” her greatest work.
DEAD!- one of them shot by the sea in the east,
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
Dead ! — both my boys! When you sit at the feast,
And are wanting a great song for Italy free,
Let none look at me!
Yet I was a poetess only last year;
And good at my art, for a woman, men said.
But this woman, this, who is agonized here, —
The east sea and west sea rhyme on in her head
For ever instead.
What art can a woman be good at ? Oh, vain !
What art is she good at but hurting her breast
With the miik-teeth of babes, and a smile at the pain ?
Ah, boys, how you hurt! You were strong as you pressed,
And I proud by that test.
What art's for a woman? — To hold on her knees
Both darlings; to feel all their arms round her throat
Cling, strangle a little ; to sew by degrees,
And 'broider the long clothes and neat little coat;
To dream and to dote.
To teach them. ... It stings there. I made them indeed
Speak plain the word “ country." I taught them, no doubt, That a country's a thing men should die for at need. I prated of liberty, rights, and about
The tyrant turned out.
6. And, when their eyes flashed, - oh my beautiful eyes !
I exulted; nay, let them go forth at the wheels Of the guns, and denied not. But then the surprise When one sits quite alone! then one weeps, then one kneels.
God! how the house feels !
At first, happy news came, in gay letters, moiled
· With my kisses, of camp-life and glory, and how
They both loved me; and soon, coming home to be spoiled,
In return would fan off every fly from my brow
With their green laurel-bough.
Then was triumph at Turin. “Ancona was free!”
And some one came out of the cheers in the street, With a face pale as stone, to say something to me. My Guido was dead! I fell down at his feet
While they cheered in the street.
I bore it: friends soothed me. My grief looked sublime
As the ransom of Italy. One boy remained
To be leant on and walked with, recalling the time
When the first grew immortal, while both of us strained
To the hight he had gained.
And letters still came, --shorter, sadder, more strong,
Writ now but in one hand. “I was not to faint.
One loved me for two; . . . would be with me ere long :
And · Viva Italia’ he died for, our saint,
Who forbids our complaint."
My Nanni would add, “ He was safe, and aware
Of a presence that turned off the balls; was imprest It was Guido himself, who knew what I could bear; And how 'twas impossible, quite dispossessed,
To live on for the rest.”
Are souls straight so happy, that, dizzy with heaven,
They drop earth's affection, conceive not of woe ?
I think not. Themselves were too lately forgiven
Through that love and sorrow which reconciled so
The above and below.
O Christ of the seven wounds, who look’dst through the dark
To the face of thy mother! consider, I pray, How we common mothers stand desolate; mark Whose sons, not being Christs, die with eyes turned away,
And no last word to say !
Both boys dead! But that's out of nature. We all.
Have been patriots; yet each house must always keep one : 'Twere imbecile hewing out roads to a wall. And, when Italy's made, for what end is it done
If we have not a son ?
Ah, ah, ah! when Gaëta's taken, what then ?
When the fair wicked queen sits no more at her sport Of the fire-balls of death crashing souls out of men; When your guns of Cavalli with final retort
Have cut the game short ;
When Venice and Rome keep their new jubilee;
When your flag takes all heaven for its white, green, and red; When yon have your country from mountain to sea; When King Victor has Italy's crown on his head,
(And I have my dead,)
18. What then? Do not mock me. Ah! ring your bells low.
And burn your lights faintly. My country is there, · Above the star pricked by the last peak of snow ; My Italy's there with my brave civic pair,
To disfranchise despair.
19. Forgive me! Some women bear children in strength,
And bite back the cry of their pain in self-scorn ; But the birth-pangs of nations will wring us at length Into wail such as this, and we sit on forlorn
When the man-child is born.
20. Dead ! - one of them shot by the sea in the west,
And one of them shot in the east by the sea, Both, both my boys! If, in keeping the feast, You want a great song for your Italy free,
Let none look at me!
And I—I was a good child, on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live to have the faults of life :
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land), I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like seaweed on the rocks, and suffering her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fiber from fiber, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she likeli smooth-ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words,
Which still, at any stirring of the heart,
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies (Bene ... or che chè), because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, -- from Athanasius back to Nice, —
The articles, the tracts against the times,
(By no ineans Buonaventure's “ Prick of Love,”')
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism)
And German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education, - tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics, brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Teneriffe,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt, because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music, — such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished, — fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew costumes
From French engravings, Nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship; I washed in
Landscapes from Nature (rather say, washed out);
I danced the polka and Cellarius;
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood,
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking (to a maiden aunt,
Or else the author), — books that boldly assert
Their right of comprehending husbands' talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty “ May it please you,” or “ So it is ; ”
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire,
And never say “No " when the world says “ Ay,"
For that is fatal; their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners; their, in brief,
Potential faculty in every thing
Of abdicating power in it. She owned
She liked a woman to be womanly;
And English women - she thanked God and sighed
(Some people always sigh in thanking God) —
Were models to the universe. And, last,
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty bands,