Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Barrett Browning - March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861

When Elizabeth Barrett's "Poems" came out in 1844, another London poet named Robert Browning wrote her a piece of admiring fan mail. "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett." He loved the "fresh strange music" and "the affluent language" and "the exquisite pathos" and the "true new brave thought of her poems.

After some time, and much against the wishes of her father, Elizabeth became Mrs. Robert Browning. The lovers happily headed for Italy. After four miscarriages Elizabeth, at the age of 43, gave her husband a son named Pen.

The following, my favorite, is the first of forty-four sonnets in her collection Sonnets from the Portuguese ... a long, beautifully crafted love letter to her husband.

I thought once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-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,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
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
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,—
“Guess now who holds thee!”—“Death,” I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, “Not Death, but Love.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in her husband's arms at the age of 55. Robert Browning wrote that she died "smilingly, happily, and with a face like a girl's. Her last word was "beautiful". She is buried in the English Cemetery in Florence. 

1 comment:

  1. Now THAT'S a piece of fan mail! Am a big fan of fan mail...when there's a reply..oh my...

    This remarkable photo of mama 'n son: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_with_her_son_Pen.jpg

    with Pen dying at 63.... intestate.