XX. Beloved, my beloved, when I think – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

by richibi

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XX. Beloved, my beloved, when I think

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think
That thou wast in the world a year ago,
What time I sat alone here in the snow
And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink
No moment at thy voice, but, link by link,
Went counting all my chains as if that so
They never could fall off at any blow
Struck by thy possible hand, – why, thus I drink
Of life’s great cup of wonder! Wonderful,
Never to feel thee thrill the day or night
With personal act or speech, – nor ever cull
Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white
Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,
Who cannot guess God’s presence out of sight.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


even at her twentieth poem already about her love
Elizabeth doesn’t become insipid, mawkish, no longer
inspiring, but delivers a conclusion of substance and
insight and relevance, though the answer to her
question remains a question

despite having been hopeless in her earlier “silence …,
… counting all [her] chains”,
never even having imagined
his “voice”, nor the possibility of those punishing irons
“fall[ing] off at any blow / Struck by [his] possible hand”,
never having ever had an inkling of him before his now
evident presence, she sees the flaw in the argument of
“Atheists”, who affirm the absence of light having only
known darkness, the absence of God or, it would
appear as in her own experience, the quite comparable
absence of love

it’s hard to resist such a persuasive argument, with its
shades of Plato‘s chained prisoners in his allegory of
the cave
, where they can’t imagine the sun, standing
in for Knowledge, for never having been made aware
of it, beings with glimpses only of a perhaps
incandescent environment that some, including Plato
and now the appropriately anointed Elizabeth, would
have as the more searching Truth

Robert was on-again off-again in his professions of
faith until the very end, a not unRomantic position,
God had been irreversibly unsettled by then by
Science, during the earlier pre-Revolutionary days,
Humpty Dumpty had been, as it were, irrevocably
unseated from his once unimpeachable wall, never
to be so impregnable again

this poem is probably a bit of a playful connubial
dig by a nevertheless ardent still Christian

go girl