Past And Future – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Past And Future.MY future will not copy fair my past 

On any leaf but Heaven’s. Be fully done, 

Supernal Will ! I would not fain be one 

Who, satisfying thirst and breaking fast 

Upon the fulness of the heart, at last 

Saith no grace after meat. My wine hath run 

Indeed out of my cup, and there is none 

To gather up the bread of my repast 

Scattered and trampled ! Yet I find some good 

In earth’s green herbs, and streams that bubble up 

Clear from the darkling ground, — content until 

I sit with angels before better food. 

Dear Christ ! when thy new vintage fills my cup, 

This hand shall shake no more, nor that wine spill.


Only A Curl – Elizabeth Barrett Browning


FRIENDS of faces unknown and a land 

Unvisited over the sea, 

Who tell me how lonely you stand 

With a single gold curl in the hand 

Held up to be looked at by me, — 


While you ask me to ponder and say 

What a father and mother can do, 

With the bright fellow-locks put away 

Out of reach, beyond kiss, in the clay 

Where the violets press nearer than you. 

Shall I speak like a poet, or run 

Into weak woman’s tears for relief ? 

Oh, children ! — I never lost one, — 

Yet my arm ‘s round my own little son, 

And Love knows the secret of Grief. 


And I feel what it must be and is, 

When God draws a new angel so 

Through the house of a man up to His, 

With a murmur of music, you miss, 

And a rapture of light, you forgo. 

How you think, staring on at the door, 

Where the face of your angel flashed in, 

That its brightness, familiar before, 

Burns off from you ever the more 

For the dark of your sorrow and sin. 

`God lent him and takes him,’ you sigh ; 

— Nay, there let me break with your pain : 

God ‘s generous in giving, say I, — 

And the thing which He gives, I deny 

That He ever can take back again. 

He gives what He gives. I appeal 

To all who bear babes — in the hour 

When the veil of the body we feel 

Rent round us, — while torments reveal 

The motherhood’s advent in power, 

And the babe cries ! — has each of us known 

By apocalypse (God being there 

Full in nature) the child is our own, 

Life of life, love of love, moan of moan, 

Through all changes, all times, everywhere. 

He ‘s ours and for ever. Believe, 

O father ! — O mother, look back 

To the first love’s assurance. To give 

Means with God not to tempt or deceive 

With a cup thrust in Benjamin’s sack. 

He gives what He gives. Be content ! 

He resumes nothing given, — be sure ! 

God lend ? Where the usurers lent 

In His temple, indignant He went 

And scourged away all those impure. 

He lends not ; but gives to the end, 

As He loves to the end. If it seem 

That He draws back a gift, comprehend 

‘Tis to add to it rather, — amend, 

And finish it up to your dream, — 

Or keep, — as a mother will toys 

Too costly, though given by herself, 

Till the room shall be stiller from noise, 

And the children more fit for such joys, 

Kept over their heads on the shelf. 

So look up, friends ! you, who indeed 

Have possessed in your house a sweet piece 

Of the Heaven which men strive for, must need 

Be more earnest than others are,–speed 

Where they loiter, persist where they cease. 

You know how one angel smiles there. 

Then weep not. ‘Tis easy for you 

To be drawn by a single gold hair 

Of that curl, from earth’s storm and despair, 

To the safe place above us. Adieu.

Love – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

We cannot live, except thus mutually 

We alternate, aware or unaware, 

The reflex act of life: and when we bear 

Our virtue onward most impulsively, 

Most full of invocation, and to be 

Most instantly compellant, certes, there 

We live most life, whoever breathes most air 

And counts his dying years by sun and sea. 

But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth 

Throw out her full force on another soul, 

The conscience and the concentration both make 

mere life, Love. For Life in perfect whole 

And aim consummated, is Love in sooth, 

As nature’s magnet-heat rounds pole with pole.

Comfort – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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.

A Woman’s Shortcomings – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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!

A Musical Instrument – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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 

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, 

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 flowed the river; 

And hacked and hewed as a great god can, 

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!) 

Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man, 

Steadily from the outside ring, 

And notched the poor dry empty thing 

In holes, as he sat by the river. 
‘This is the way,’ laughed the great god Pan 

(Laughed 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. 
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 

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, — 

For the reed which grows nevermore again 

As a reed with the reeds in the river.

A Man’s Requirements – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Love me Sweet, with all thou art, 

Feeling, thinking, seeing; 

Love me in the lightest part, 

Love me in full being. 
Love me with thine open youth 

In its frank surrender; 

With the vowing of thy mouth, 

With its silence tender. 
Love me with thine azure eyes, 

Made for earnest grantings; 

Taking colour from the skies, 

Can Heaven’s truth be wanting? 
Love me with their lids, that fall 

Snow-like at first meeting; 

Love me with thine heart, that all 

Neighbours then see beating. 

Love me with thine hand stretched out 

Freely — open-minded: 

Love me with thy loitering foot, — 

Hearing one behind it. 
Love me with thy voice, that turns 

Sudden faint above me; 

Love me with thy blush that burns 

When I murmur ‘Love me!’ 
Love me with thy thinking soul, 

Break it to love-sighing; 

Love me with thy thoughts that roll 

On through living — dying. 
Love me in thy gorgeous airs, 

When the world has crowned thee; 

Love me, kneeling at thy prayers, 

With the angels round thee. 
Love me pure, as muses do, 

Up the woodlands shady: 

Love me gaily, fast and true, 

As a winsome lady. 

Through all hopes that keep us brave, 

Farther off or nigher, 

Love me for the house and grave, 

And for something higher. 
Thus, if thou wilt prove me, Dear, 

Woman’s love no fable, 

I will love thee — half a year — 

As a man is able.