A Man's Requirements

Table of contents

1. A Man's Requirementsa

Love me, sweet, with all thou art,
Feeling, thinking, seeing,—
Love me in the lightest part,
Love me in full being.
Love me with thine open youth
In its frank surrender;
With the vowing of thy mouth,
With its silence tender.
Love me with thine azure eyes,
Made for earnest granting!
Taking colour from the skies,
Can Heaven's truth be wanting?
Love me with their lids, that fall
Snow-like at first meeting.
Love me with thine heart, that all
The neighbours then see beating.
Love me with thine hand stretched out
Love me with thy loitering foot,—
Hearing one behind it.—
Love me with thy voice, that turns
Sudden faint above me;
Love me with thy blush that burns
When I murmur, Love me!
Love me with thy thinking soul—
Break it to love-sighing;
Love me with thy thoughts that roll
On through living—dying.
Love me in thy gorgeous airs,
When the world has crowned thee!
Love me, kneeling at thy prayers,
With the angels round thee.
Love me pure, as musers do,
Up the woodlands shady.
Love me gaily, fast, and true,
As a winsome lady.
Through all hopes that keep us brave,
Further off or nigher,
Love me for the house and grave,—
And for something higher.
Thus, if thou wilt prove me, dear,
Woman's love no fable,
I will love thee—half-a-year—
As a man is able.

2. Note on the text

First published in Blackwood's in October 1846, and paired with "A Woman's Shortcomings" in Poems (1850), this dramatic lyric participates "in a long tradition of women poets' satire on male attitudes," as Mermin notes (Mermin (1989, 152). It also has affinities with the witty satire of men's inconstancy in "Go and Catch a Falling Star" by John Donne (1572-1631). For further comment, see Stephenson (1989).For a text with variants and more extended annotation, see The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Vol. 2, General Editor, Sandra Donaldson, Volume Editors Marjorie Stone & Beverly Taylor (London: Pickering and Chatto).

3. Explanatory Notes

Two 1844 manuscripts of this poem bear the title "How a lady should love" (R D510, D511).

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: 17 February, 2009
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