Friday, June 4, 2010

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

After my recent homage to Robert Browning, it seems only fair to give props to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. During their lifetimes, she was by far the more noted poet; his renown grew only after her death. She is most remembered for Sonnets from the Portuguese and, of course, the ubiquitous “How Do I Love Thee?” sonnet therein. They’re nice if formal love poetry is what you’re after – and we all have those moods, right? – but I think her lesser-known poetry is more interesting.


I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
Beat upward to God's throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death--
Most like a monumental statue set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:
If it could weep, it could arise and go.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Wikipedia

Elizabeth Barrett Browning on


  1. The quiet of grief... not like Laertes jumping in Ophelia's grave... real grief is a desert parched and barren. Good words, EBB. Thanks for sharing. I think most of us left Barrett behind in college, so many, many years ago. Time to pick it up again.

  2. She writes like one who knows, absolutely. So much more to her than the sonnets!