X. Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by richibi

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

X. Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful…

Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright,
Let temple burn, or flax; and equal light
Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed:
And love is fire. And when I say at need
I love thee … mark! … I love thee—in thy sight
I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
With conscience of the new rays that proceed
Out of my face toward thine. There’s nothing low
In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures
Who love God, God accepts while loving so.
And what I feel, across the inferior features
Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show
How that great work of Love enhances Nature’s.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


we are witness to the “transfigur[ation] that occurs at
the conferment of love, the sacred trust one receives of
infinite empathy for another, others, in order to glimpse
maybe something of the mystical dimensions of our
universe, the place within it of miracles, should one
chance to go there

and it is, well, transformational, a quantum leap of the
very soul

note structurally the rush of emotion that blurs a
usually dominant rhyme, the stop for breath in the
very middle of a verse instead of its usual place at
the end of the line, to suggest the lost parameters,
the breached social norms, of her emotion

note the urgency of her sentiment – “I love thee …
mark! … I love thee”
– despite being “the lowest”,
and being unworthy under normal conditions of
even being heard

yet she is aware, cognizant, that this grace she
has received changes the world – “How that great
work of Love enhances Nature’s.”
– her “new rays”
burn ever bright, a constant flame keeping vigil at
her lover’s altar, and sheds light thereby, hope and,
it appears, undying inspiration, on all of us

wow, man

note also, incidentally, how, this time, there is not
a word about him, even a descriptive trait, except
as a necessary, though maybe incidental, catalyst,
a primal engine

we’ll see