XXlV. Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

by richibi

notice: the following, I suspect, is for poetry lovers
only, others will likely want to roll their eyes
at my idiosyncratic choices and preoccupations
and delete what I perceive nevertheless and
mean always to be priceless gifts

such is my eccentricity


psst: one person’s gift however could be another’s
burden, admittedly, meat be their even poison


from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXlV. Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife

Let the world’s sharpness like a clasping knife
Shut in upon itself and do no harm
In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm,
And let us hear no sound of human strife
After the click of the shutting. Life to life –
I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm,
And feel as safe as guarded by a charm
Against the stab of worldlings, who if rife
Are weak to injure. Very whitely still
The lilies of our lives may reassure
Their blossoms from their roots, accessible
Alone to heavenly dews that drop not fewer;
Growing straight, out of man’s reach, on the hill.
God only, who made us rich, can make us poor.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


it had been pointed out in my poetry class at
university, where our supposed greater maturity
would allow us now to peruse somewhat more
prurient texts, that the compass in John Donne‘s
Valediction was, well, prurient, however, to my
mind, at the very least then, eccentric

much like Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s “clasping
in her XXlVth sonnet here

all that to our much more jaded XXlst-Century
amusement, we are never ever now so circuitous,
coy, nor were any of us even back in my
mid-XXth-Century teens, D.H. Lawrence had
already irreversibly made courtship graphic,
for better, as in any contract, or for worse

and the beat goes on



A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

John Donne