My Heart and I

Table of contents

1. My Heart and I

Enough! we’re tired, my heart and I.
We sit beside the headstone thus,
And wish that name were carved for us.
The moss reprints more tenderly
The hard types of the mason’s knife,
As heaven’s sweet life renews earth’s life
With which we’re tired7, my heart and I.
You see we’re tired, my heart and I.
We dealt with books, we trusted men,
And in our own blood drenched the pen,
As if such colors could not fly.
We walked too straight for fortune’s end,
We loved too true to keep a friend;
At last we’re tired, my heart and I.
How tired we feel, my heart and I!
We seem of no use in the world;
Our fancies hang grey and uncurled
About men’s eyes indifferently;
Our voice which thrilled you so, will let
You sleep; our tears are only wet:
What do we here, my heart and I?
So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
It was not thus in that old time
When Ralph sat with me, ’neath the lime24
To watch the sunset from the sky.
“Dear love, you’re looking tired,” he said;
I, smiling at him, shook my head:
’Tis now we’re tired, my heart and I.
So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
Though now none takes me on his arm
To fold me close and kiss me warm
Till each quick breath end in a sigh
Of happy languor. Now, alone,
We lean upon this graveyard stone,
Uncheered, unkissed, my heart and I.
Tired out we are, my heart and I.
Suppose the world brought diadems
To tempt us, crusted with loose gems
Of powers and pleasures? Let it try.
We scarcely care to look at even
A pretty child, or God’s blue heaven,
We feel so tired, my heart and I.
Yet who complains? My heart and I?
In this abundant earth no doubt
Is little room for things worn out:
Disdain them, break them, throw them by!
And if before the days grew rough
We once were loved, used,--well enough,
I think, we’ve fared, my heart and I.

2. Note on the text

EBB sent this poem together with RB’s “Study of a Hand, by Lionard” a to Marguerite Power in August 1857, for inclusion in her annual, The Keepsake (unpublished letter to Power, Armstrong Browning Library). However, the work was not published until after her death, in Last Poems (1862). The poem’s draft ms (R D558), now in the Pierpont Morgan library, indicates that it was probably written by 1855, and associated in its genesis as well as its subject matter with another work published in Last Poems, “Amy’s Cruelty.” An interesting feature of the Morgan draft is that, between Stanzas IV and V of the poem, there appears a mock-epitaph in RB’s hand:

Here lies Browning
In bile he lived frowning
With bile he died drowning—
And the worst of his ill
Was not bile so much as a bill.

This epitaph, the manuscripts of “My Heart and I,” and the questions these raise concerning the poem’s intertextual connections and possible tensions in the Brownings’ marriage are considered by Stone (1998). In its published form, the poem is a dramatic monologue very much in keeping with EBB’s experiments with the form. As in the case of “Void in Law” (1862), she here adapts the ballad with its reiterative refrain to represent the inner conflict of an embittered female speaker. Other important artistic contexts include RB’s monologues in Men and Women (1855)--especially his monologues with female speakers such as “Any Wife to Any Husband”--portraying “quarrels” or differences in love and marriage. Chapman (“Last Poems,” 2003) analyzes the poem’s representation of an ironized female sensibility. For a text with variants and more extended annotation, see The Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, General Editor, Sandra Donaldson (London: Pickering and Chatto).

3. Explanatory Notes

tired] Cf. RB’s similar emphasis in 1864 on the word “tired” in his description of “Jame’s Lee’s Wife” as a work portraying “people newly married, trying to realize a dream of being sufficient to each other, in a foreign land (where you can try such an experiment) and finding it break up,--the man being tired first,--and tired precisely of the love” (Robert Browning and Julia Wedgwood: A Broken Friendship as Revealed by Their Letters, ed. Richard Curle [New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1937], 109).

When Ralph . . . ’neath the lime] altered in the Morgan draft ms (R D558) from “When love met love with sweetest rhyme.”

“Study of a Hand, by Lionard” was later published as ll. 244-69 of “James Lee’s Wife” in his Dramatis Personae (1864).

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: 3-MAR-2009
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