l. I thought once how Theocritus had sung – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by richibi

from “Sonnets from the Portuguese

1. I thought once how Theocritus had sung

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


despite trying to deflect attention from her own love
and muse, her husband, by calling her collection of
poems Sonnets from the Portuguese“, as though these
were translations from existing texts, no such template
exists, so that the truth, the now legendary truth, has
always been known

there is no higher Romanticism than these poems


psst: Elizabeth was six years older than her husband,
she was already 39, when they met, this adds
context to the poem, she had also been always
very sickly, deathly frail