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!