XXXlV. With the same heart, I said, I’ll answer thee – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

by richibi

from “Sonnets from the Portuguese”

XXXlV. With the same heart, I said, I’ll answer thee

With the same heart, I said, I’ll answer thee
As those, when thou shalt call me by my name –
Lo, the vain promise! is the same, the same,
Perplexed and ruffled by life’s strategy?
When called before, I told how hastily
I dropped my flowers or brake off from a game,
To run and answer with the smile that came
At play last moment, and went on with me
Through my obedience. When I answer now,
I drop a grave thought, break from solitude;
Yet still my heart goes to thee – ponder how –
Not as to a single good, but all my good –
Lay thy hand on it, best one, and allow
That no child’s foot could run fast as this blood.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


despite the fact that this poem is evidently
a continuation of the last one, her XXXlllrd,
Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear“,
it is interesting to note that this XXXlVth
can stand entirely on its own, a separate
and independently cohesive entity, having
in this present iteration revisited all the
points that make the previously rendered
account wholly here a recapitulation, in all
even its intricate detail, superimposed upon
the other, or, more accurately here, after the
other, like skilled and artful embroidery, or
like Russian, maybe, nesting dolls

again it’s wise to watch the commas, and
read the lines as you would prose, if you’ll
pardon my, perhaps impertinent,

but even then you’ll come up short, in the
second line at “those”, whose referents
are only inferred, though indeed still only
dimly, by the end of the poem

“those” are of course those she ran to, her
elders, and by extension their plural, note,
“eyes”, a wonderful, and shimmering, dare
I say, stitch, a reverberant metonymy, where
the “eyes” are not only those of one “some
but apparently various also others, a
veritable prism ultimately in which she had
been severally reflected

and we’re just at line two, the second verse,
Elizabeth is manifestly a poet

in the third verse, “the same, the same”
juxtaposes twin statements, the point is
that these identities are now timeworn,
[p]erplexed and ruffled by life’s strategy”,
by life’s disaffections and dislocations,
and become entirely opposite

but this remains

she says that her step is even more nimble,
now, fleeter, “no child’s step could run as
fast as this blood”,
“this blood” being her
ardent, of course, devotion, she asks that
he be her purpose, [n]ot as to a single
good, but all my good”

but isn’t that like saying God, in a world,
the Romantic Age, become then, if you’ll
remember, much more secular, this
position no longer a blasphemy, a heresy,
however unconsciously publically, even
scandalously, subversive

may he [l]ay [his] hand on it”, she invokes,
his metaphysical hand on her metaphorical
heart, and “allow”, confirm, indeed consecrate,
this fervent declaration, which she has signed
with, assigned her last word to, note, her very