I was a child when first I read your books,
And lov’d you dearly, so far as I could see
Your obvious meanings, your more subtle depths
Being then (as still, perhaps,) a mystery.
I had no awe of you, so much does love,
In simple daring, all shy fears transcend;
And when they told me, “You shall travel south,”
I chiefly thought, “In Florence dwells my friend!”
In those first days I seldom heard your name,
You seem’d in my strange fancy all my own,
Or else as if you were some saint in Heaven
Whose image took my bookcase for a throne.
As time went on, your words flew far and wide,
I heard them quoted, critically scann’d
With grave intentness, learnt, half mournfully,
That you were a great Poet in the land,
So far, so far from me, who lov’d you so,
And never might one human blessing claim;
Yet oh! how I rejoic’d that you were great,
And all my heart exulted in your fame;
A woman’s fame, and yours! I use no words
Of any careful beauty, being plain
As earnestness, and quiet as that Truth
Which shrinks from any flattering speech with pain.
Indeed, I should not dare—but that this love,
Long nurs’d, demands expression, and alone
Seeks by love’s dear strength—to approach near you
In words so weak and poor beside your own.