Sonnet XV from Sonnets From the Portuguese
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear
Too calm and sad a face in front of thine;
For we two look two ways, and cannot shine
With the same sunlight on our brow and hair.
On me thou lookest with no doubting care,
As on a bee in a crystalline;
Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love's divine
And to spread wing and fly in the outer air
Were most impossible failure, if I strove
To fail so. But I look on thee--on thee--
Beholding, besides love, the end of love,
Hearing oblivion beyond memory;
As one who sits and gazes from above,
Over the rivers to the bitter sea.
How Do I Love Thee
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Frost at Midnight
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry
Came loud---and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
`Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang
>From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the interspersed vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shall learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.
Love and Death
What time the mighty moon was gathering light
Love paced the thymy plots of Paradise,
And all about him roll’d his lustrous eyes;
When, turning round a cassia, full in view,
Death, walking all alone beneath a yew,
And talking to himself, first met his sight.
‘You must begone,’ said Death, ‘these walks are mine.’
Love wept and spread his sheeny vans for flight;
Yet ere he parted said, ‘This hour is thine:
Thou art the shadow of life, and as the tree
Stands in the sun and shadows all beneath,
So in the light of great eternity
Life eminent creates the shade of death.
The shadow passeth when the tree shall fall,
But I shall reign for ever over all.’
A plague upon the people fell,
A famine after laid them low;
Then thorpe and byre arose in fire,
For on them brake the sudden foe;
So thick they died the people cried,
‘The Gods are moved against the land.’
The Priest in horror about his altar
To Thor and Odin lifted a hand:
‘Help us from famine
And plague and strife!
What would you have of us?
Were it our nearest,
Were it our dearest,–
Answer, O answer!–
We give you his life.’
But still the foeman spoil’d and burn’d,
And cattle died, and deer in wood,
And bird in air, and fishes turn’d
And whiten’d all the rolling flood;
And dead men lay all over the way,
Or down in a furrow scathed with flame;
And ever and aye the Priesthood moan’d,
Till at last it seem’d that an answer came:
‘The King is happy
In child and wife;
Take you his dearest,
Give us a life.’
The Priest went out by heath and hill;
The King was hunting in the wild;
They found the mother sitting still;
She cast her arms about the child.
The child was only eight summers old,
His beauty still with his years increased,
His face was ruddy, his hair was gold;
He seem’d a victim due to the priest.
The Priest beheld him,
And cried with joy,
‘The Gods have answer’d;
We give them the boy.’
The King return’d from out the wild,
He bore but little game in hand;
The mother said, ‘They have taken the child
To spill his blood and heal the land.
The land is sick, the people diseased,
And blight and famine on all the lea;
The holy Gods, they must be appeased,
So I pray you tell the truth to me.
They have taken our son,
They will have his life.
Is he your dearest?
Or I, the wife?’
The King bent low, with hand on brow,
He stay’d his arms upon his knee:
‘O wife, what use to answer now?
For now the Priest has judged for me.’
The King was shaken with holy fear;
‘The Gods,’ he said, ‘would have chosen well;
Yet both are near, and both are dear,
And which the dearest I cannot tell!’
But the Priest was happy,
His victim won:
‘We have his dearest,
His only son!’
The rites prepared, the victim bared,
The knife uprising toward the blow,
To the altar-stone she sprang alone:
‘Me, not my darling, no!’
He caught her away with a sudden cry;
Suddenly from him brake his wife,
And shrieking, ‘I am his dearest, I–
I am his dearest!’ rush’d on the knife.
And the Priest was happy:
‘O Father Odin,
We give you a life.
Which was his nearest?
Who was his dearest?
The Gods have answer’d;
We give them the wife!'
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