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2.2: Sonnets from the Portuguese

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    3105
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    Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    XXI

    Say over again, and yet once over again,

    That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated

    Should seem a “cuckoo-song,[1]” as thou dost treat it,

    Remember, never to the hill or plain,

    Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain

    Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.

    Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted

    By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain

    Cry, “Speak once more—thou lovest!” Who can fear

    Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,

    Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?

    Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll

    The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,

    To love me also in silence with thy soul.

     

    XXII

    When our two souls stand up erect and strong,

    Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,

    Until the lengthening wings break into fire

    At either curved point,—what bitter wrong

    Can the earth do to us, that we should not long

    Be here contented? Think! In mounting higher,

    The angels would press on us and aspire

    To drop some golden orb of perfect song

    Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay

    Rather on earth, Beloved,—where the unfit

    Contrarious moods of men recoil away

    And isolate pure spirits, and permit

    A place to stand and love in for a day,

    With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

     

    XXXII

    The first time that the sun rose on thine oath

    To love me, I looked forward to the moon

    To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon

    And quickly tied to make a lasting troth.

    Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;

    And, looking on myself, I seemed not one

    For such man’s love!—more like an out-of-tune

    Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth

    To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste,

    Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note.

    I did not wrong myself so, but I placed

    A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float

    ‘Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced,—

    And great souls, at one stroke, may do and doat.

     

    XLIII

    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 everyday’s

    Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

    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 thee with the breath,

    Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,

    I shall but love thee better after death.

    —1845-47, 1850

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