Isa Blagden: To George Sand on Her Interview with Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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1. Isa Blagden "from To George Sand on Her Interview with Elizabeth Barrett Browning"

Isa Blagdena
published 1873
The late repentance, and the long despair,
The sin-bound soul’s fierce struggle to be free,
A fettered maniac raging in her lair
Are thine!
A life all musical with happy love,
An angel child who sings beside her knee,
Pulses which true to heavenly rhythms move,
Are hers!
Dark hair strained backwards from a forehead broad,
Dark eyes, in whose chill light strange secrets live,
As in the deep grim monsters watch and ward,
Are thine!
Soft curls which droop around an oval cheek,
Calm brows where holy thought has power to give
Transfigured glory to a woman meek,
Are hers!
Her childhood smileth still around her mouth –
O’er thy white gleaming teeth, thy full lips part –
Eager for joys which may renew thy youth;
Some brief wild rapture which may cheat, yet warm,
Kindling the languor of a hopeless heart.
With thee life stagnates, or is flashing storm.
To shapeless horrors thou hast given name,
And woes, ‘neath which poor tortured hearts had bowed
And borne till now in trembling patient shame,
Rose at thy call, and spoke their loud despair,
And women’s wrongs, like opened graves, avowed
Their stark foul secrets to the startled air!
Thou, ‘mid the dreary wilderness of life,
With bleeding feet and burning soul didst go,
And flung thyself into th’arena’s strife.
And therefore wears thy brow its sullen scorn,
And therefore glooms thy large prophetic eye,
And in thy song are cadences forlorn,
Which blend their sighs with lingering echoes fine
Of thrilling sweetness, yet of agony –
Grand revelations, utterances divine.
Not thus her song. The seraph chorus bowed
And leant entranced from jasper thrones to hear
A mortal’s voice so nigh the throne of God.
Its rich Hellenic harmonies had power
Of wide reverberation far and near.
A woman’s witness to her God they bore!
Amid the world’s wild roar, that tender song,
Throughout its jarring discords heard between,
Rung out heroic protest against wrong.
Where coward souls had recklessly despaired,
That dove-like heart with fortitude serene
Through Sorrow’s whelming flood victorious dared,
And won Faith’s vernal promise; glowing words
Revealed eternal hopes, and music fraught
Ravished the silences with sweet accords.
Upon her lips the altar’s living coal
With cherub glories circled mortal thought,
And birth consummate stirred within her soul.
Thy genius to her stainless genius knelt,
And with pathetic reverential awe
The holiness of womanhood was felt
Deep in thy soul; to thee, she was a shrine
Of sanctuary – inexorable law –
The earthly human won to God’s divine!
Ah! by that healing kiss, be thou assoiled!
The radiant Twins whose joys in Heaven are shown
(The Mortal and Immortal), thus uncoiled
The death-doom which was long the curse of One.
She, by that love which pressed to thine embrace,
By her own star-crowned soul has claimed thy place.

2. Explanatory Notes

From 1850, novelist and poet Isa (Isabella) Blagden (1816?-73) was an intimate friend of the Brownings in Florence. This poem was collected in Poems by the Late Isa Blagden (Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1873), 106-11. For the complete poem, see the supplementary website. On EBB and French novelist Georges Sand, whom the Brownings met in Paris in 1852, see the “Introduction,” pp. **, and the headnote to EBB’s two sonnets “To George Sand.”

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Isa Blagden. Date: 14-June-2011
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