The Brownings: Elizabeth and Robert

Numbers 2 and 3 on my list of favorite poets from Sundae with Nuts are Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband Robert Browning.  They were married, and that’s is all the biographical information I will give here.  You may find more by following the links given here.  Trust me there is a lot to find on the World Wide Web.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I first became acquainted with Elizabeth in my youth.  I was becoming involved in secondary school dramatics and studying various poets and play writers.  Also, as a young man in my middle-teens, I was learning about love from a first-hand experience.  The combination of the two experiences led me to Sonnet XLIII from Sonnets from the Portuguese 28.  I think even some of the most ignorant of poetry in general will recognize this one from the first line alone.

Sonnet XLIII

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and heightElizabeth_Barrett_Browning
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

On my list, I have a few of Elizabeth’s contemporaries in the field including her husband, Wordsworth, and Edgar Allen Poe.  Poe was so impressed with Liz’s work that he borrowed her meter from work Lady Geraldine’s Courtship: a Romance of the Age, for his own masterpiece, The Raven.  I’ll give a sample of The Raven when I do Poe, but here’s a sample from Lady . . ..  You tell me if you see the similarity.

Lady Geraldine’s Courtship: A Romance for the Age

Dear my friend and fellow student, I would lean my spirit o’er you!
Down the purple of this chamber, tears should scarcely run at will.
I am humbled who was humble. Friend, — I bow my head before you.
You should lead me to my peasants, — but their faces are too still.

There’s a lady — an earl’s daughter, — she is proud and she is noble,
And she treads the crimson carpet, and she breathes the perfumed air,
And a kingly blood sends glances up her princely eye to trouble,
And the shadow of a monarch’s crown is softened in her hair.

eh?  Pretty damn good-what what?

Moving on . . .

Robert Browning

I became familiar with Robert by association with Elizabeth.  Had it not been for Sonnet XLIII I would not have heard of him.  At least, not at that time anyway.

This excerpt is from Men and Women.1898.jpg

Love Among the Ruins

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
         Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward thro’ the twilight, stray or stop
         As they crop—
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
         (So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
         Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
         Peace or war.




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