(6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861 / Durham / England)

A Woman's Shortcomings

She has laughed as softly as if she sighed,
She has counted six, and over,
Of a purse well filled, and a heart well tried -
Oh, each a worthy lover!
They "give her time"; for her soul must slip
Where the world has set the grooving;
She will lie to none with her fair red lip:
But love seeks truer loving.

She trembles her fan in a sweetness dumb,
As her thoughts were beyond recalling;
With a glance for one, and a glance for some,
From her eyelids rising and falling;
Speaks common words with a blushful air,
Hears bold words, unreproving;
But her silence says - what she never will swear -
And love seeks better loving.

Go, lady! lean to the night-guitar,
And drop a smile to the bringer;
Then smile as sweetly, when he is far,
At the voice of an in-door singer.
Bask tenderly beneath tender eyes;
Glance lightly, on their removing;
And join new vows to old perjuries -
But dare not call it loving!

Unless you can think, when the song is done,
No other is soft in the rhythm;
Unless you can feel, when left by One,
That all men else go with him;
Unless you can know, when unpraised by his breath,
That your beauty itself wants proving;
Unless you can swear "For life, for death!" -
Oh, fear to call it loving!

Unless you can muse in a crowd all day
On the absent face that fixed you;
Unless you can love, as the angels may,
With the breadth of heaven betwixt you;
Unless you can dream that his faith is fast,
Through behoving and unbehoving;
Unless you can die when the dream is past -
Oh, never call it loving!

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Comments (19)

EBB was born before her time. She is the most genius female poetess.
(8) ... she gave birth to a son, Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning, whom they called Pen. Their son later married but had no legitimate children. At her husband's insistence, the second edition of Elizabeth’s Poems included her love sonnets; as a result, her popularity increased (as well as critical regard) , and her position was confirmed.
(7) ...As Elizabeth had some money of her own, the couple were reasonably comfortable in Italy, and their relationship together was harmonious. The Brownings were well respected in Italy, and even famous. Elizabeth grew stronger and in 1849, at the age of 43, between four miscarriages,
(6) ....Wilson, who witnessed the marriage, accompanied the couple to Italy. Mr. Barrett disinherited Elizabeth, as he did each of his children who married. Elizabeth had foreseen her father's anger but not expected the disgust of her brothers, who saw Browning as a lower-class gold-digger and refused to see him.
(5) ...Six years his elder and an invalid, she could not believe that the vigorous and worldly Robert Browning really loved her as much as he professed to. After a private marriage at St. Marylebone Parish Church, they honeymooned in Paris. Browning then imitated his hero Shelley by spiriting his wife off to Italy, in September 1846, which became her home almost continuously until her death. Elizabeth's loyal nurse,
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