1. To Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Here Later Sonnets
Dinah Maria Mulock Craika
I know not if the cycle of strange years
Will ever bring thy human face to me,
Sister!—I say this, not as of thy peers,
But like as those who their own grief can see
In the large mirror of another’s tears.
Comforter! many a time thy soul’s white feet
Stole on the silent darkness where I lay
With voice of distant singing—solemn sweet—
“Be of good cheer, I too, have trod that way;”
And I rose up and walked in strength complete.
Oft, as amidst the furnace of fierce woe
My own will lit, I writhing stood, yet calm,
I saw thee moving near me, meek and slow,
Speaking not, —but still chaunting the same psalm,
“God’s love suffices when all world-loves go.”
Year after year have I, in passion strong,
Clung to thy garments when my soul was faint, —
Touching thee, all unseen amid the throng;
But now, thou risest to joy’s heaven—my saint!
And I look up—and cannot hear thy song,
--Or hearing, understand not; save as those
Who from without list to the bridegroom-strains
They might have sung—but that the dull gates close,—
And so they smile a blessing through their pains,
Then, turning, lie and sleep among the snows.
So, go thou in, saint—sister—comforter!
Of this, thy house of joy, heaven keep the doors!
And sometimes through the music and the stir
Set thy lamp shining from the upper floors,
That we without may say—“Bless God and her!”
This poem appeared anonymously in The Athenæum,
no. 1216 (15 February 1851), 191; later collected, with minor revisions, in
Craik’s Thirty Years, Being Poems New and Old (London: Macmillan, 1880), 211-12.
A journalist, poet, popular novelist, and children’s writer, Craik (1826-87) is
today best known for the novel John Halifax,Gentleman (1857) and A Woman’s
Thoughts about Women (1858). In February 1852 EBB received an inscribed copy of
the novel The Head of the Family (1852), which Mulock had dedicated to her: “to
one who has for years been the good influence of my life….a woman, the mere
naming of whom includes and transcends all praise” (see LTA 1:460-61n26 and R