Vlll. What can I give thee back, O liberal – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
from “Sonnets from the Portuguese“
Vlll. What can I give thee back, O liberal…
What can I give thee back, O liberal
And princely giver, who hast brought the gold
And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,
And laid them on the outside of the wall
For such as I to take or leave withal,
In unexpected largesse? am I cold,
Ungrateful, that for these most mainfold
High gifts, I render nothing back at all?
Not so; not cold, — but very poor instead.
Ask God who knows. For frequent tears have run
The colours from my life, and left so dead
And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done
To give the same as pillow to thy head.
Go farther! let it serve to trample on.
at this point I have to say, get a hold of yourself, girlfriend,
there is some worth in you even if you are wretched, look
at just your poetry, which from this pespective shines
radiant light upon your dependent lover, who would not
live so bright were you not his sponsor in the cultural
imagination, your moon has made his sunshine infinitely
but that is from this perspective, a love so subservient is
no longer an appropriate model in a world where women
are taking their rightful place, even still
but perhaps this is, pertinently, an aspect of love, male
or female, this obliterating surrender