The Poet’s Vow

Table of contents

1. The Poet’s Vow

----O be wiser thou,
Instructed that true knowledge leads to love.

1.1. Part the First: Showing Wherefore the Vow Was Made

Eve is a twofold mystery;
The stillness Earth doth keep,—
The motion wherewith human hearts
Do each to either leap,
As if all souls between the poles,
Felt “Parting comes in sleep.”
The rowers lift their oars to view
Each other in the sea;
The landsmen watch the rocking boats
In a pleasant company;
While up the hill go gladlier still
Dear friends by two and three
The peasant’s wife hath looked without
Her cottage door and smiled,
For there the peasant drops his spade
To clasp his youngest child
Which hath no speech, but its hand can reach
And stroke his forehead mild
A poet sate19 that eventide
Within his hall20 alone
As silent as its ancient lords
In the coffined place of stone,
When the bat hath shrunk from the praying monk,
And the praying monk is gone.
Nor wore the dead a stiller face
Beneath the cerement’s 26 roll.
His lips refusing out in words
Their mystic thoughts to dole,28
His stedfast eye burnt inwardly,
As burning out his soul.
You would not think that brow could e’er
Ungentle moods express,
Yet seemed it, in this troubled world,
Too calm for gentleness;
When the very star, that shines from far,
Shines trembling ne’ertheless.
It lacked, all need, the softening light
Which other brows supply.
We should conjoin the scathèd39 trunks
Of our humanity,
That each leafless spray entwining may
Look softer ’gainst the sky.
None gazed within the poet’s face,
The poet gazed in none.
He threw a lonely shadow straight
Before the moon and sun,
Affronting nature’s heaven-dwelling creatures
With wrong to nature done.
Because this poet daringly,
The nature at his heart,
And that quick tune along his veins
He could not change by art,
Had vowed his blood of brotherhood
To a stagnant place apart.54
He did not vow in fear, or wrath,
Or grief’s fantastic whim,—
But, weights and shows of sensual things
Too closely crossing him,
On his soul’s eyelid the pressure slid
And made its vision dim.
And darkening in the dark he strove
’Twixt earth and sea and sky,
To lose in shadow, wave, and cloud,
His brother’s haunting cry.
The winds were welcome as they swept,
God’s five-day work66 he would accept,
But let the rest go by.67
He cried—“O touching, patient Earth,
That weepest in thy glee,
Whom God created very good,
And very mournful, we!
Thy voice of moan doth reach His throne,
As Abel’s rose from thee.73
“Poor crystal sky, with stars astray!
Mad winds, that howling go
From east to west! perplexèd seas,
That stagger from their blow!76
Thy voice of moan doth reach His throne,
As Abel’s rose from thee.
We! and our curse! do I partake
The desiccating sin?
Have I the apple at my lips?
The money-lust within?
Do I human stand with the wounding hand,
To the blasting heart akin?
“Thou solemn pathos of all things,
For solemn joy designed!
Behold, submissive to your cause
An holy wrath I find,
And, for your sake, the bondage break,
That knits me to my kind.
“Hear me forswear man’s sympathies,
His pleasant yea and no,
His riot on the piteous earth
Whereon his thistles grow!
His changing love—with stars above!
His pride—with graves below!
“Hear me forswear his roof by night,
His bread and salt by day,
His talkings at the wood-fire hearth,
His greetings by the way,
His answering looks, his systemed books,
All man, for aye and aye.103
“That so my purged, once human heart,
From all the human rent,105
May gather strength to pledge and drink
Your wine of wonderment,107
While you pardon me, all blessingly,
The woe mine Adam sent.
“And I shall feel your unseen looks
Innumerous, constant, deep,
And soft as haunted Adam once,
Though sadder, round me creep,—
As slumbering men have mystic ken114
Of watchers on their sleep.
“And ever, when I lift my brow
At evening to the sun,
No voice of woman or of child
Recording ‘Day is done.’
Your silences shall a love express,
More deep than such an one.”

1.2. Part the Second: Showing to Whom the Vow Was Declared

The poet’s vow was inly sworn,
The poet’s vow was told.
He shared among his crowding friends
The silver and the gold,
They clasping bland his gift,—his hand
In a somewhat slacker hold.
They wended128 forth, the crowding friends,
With farewells smooth and kind.
They wended forth, the solaced friends,
And left but twain131 behind:
One loved him true as brothers do,
And one was Rosalind.”
He said—“My friends have wended forth
With farewells smooth and kind.
Mine oldest friend, my plighted bride,136
Ye need not stay behind.
Friend, wed my fair bride for my sake,
And let my lands ancestral make
A dower for Rosalind.140
“And when beside your wassail board141
Ye bless your social lot,
I charge you that the giver be
In all his gifts forgot.
Or alone of all his words recall
The last,—Lament me not.”146
She looked upon him silently,
With her large, doubting eyes,
Like a child that never knew but love,
Whom words of wrath surprise,
Till the rose did break from either cheek,
And the sudden tears did rise.
She looked upon him mournfully,
While her large eyes were grown
Yet larger with the steady tears,
Till, all his purpose known,
She turnèd slow, as she would go—
The tears were shaken down.
She turnèd slow, as she would go,
Then quickly turned again,—
And gazing in his face to seek
Some little touch of pain—
“I thought,” she said,—but shook her head,—
She tried that speech in vain.
“I thought—but I am half a child
And very sage art thou—
The teachings of the heaven and earth
Should keep us soft and low168.
They have drawn my tears in early years,
Or ere I wept—as now.
“But now that in thy face I read
Their cruel homily172,
Before their beauty I would fain173
Untouched, unsoftened be,—
If I indeed could look on even
The senseless, loveless earth and heaven
As thou canst look on me!
“And couldest thou as coldly178 view
Thy childhood’s far abode,
Where little feet kept time with thine
Along the dewy sod?
And thy mother’s look from holy book,
Rose, like a thought of God?
“O brother,—called so, ere her last
Betrothing185 words were said!
O fellow-watcher in her room,
With hushèd voice and tread!
Rememberest thou how, hand in hand,
O friend, O lover, we did stand,
And knew that she was dead?
“I will not live Sir Roland’s bride,—
That dower I will not hold!
I tread below my feet that go,
These parchments bought and sold.
The tears I weep, are mine to keep,
And worthier than thy gold.”
The poet and Sir Roland stood
Alone, each turned to each,
Till Roland brake199 the silence left
By that soft-throbbing speech—
“Poor heart!” he cried, “it vainly tried
The distant heart to reach.
“And thou, O distant, sinful heart,
That climbest up so high,
To wrap and blind thee with the snows
That cause to dream and die—206
What blessing can, from lips of man,
Approach thee with his sigh?
“Ay, what from earth—create209for man,
And moaning in his moan?
Ay, what from stars—revealed to man,
And man-named, one by one?
Ay, more! what blessing can be given,213
Where the Spirits seven do show in heaven
A MAN upon the throne?—215
“A man on earth HE wandered once,
All meek and undefiled,
And those who loved Him, said ‘He wept’—
None ever said He smiled;
Yet there might have been a smile unseen,
When He bowed His holy face, I ween,221
To bless that happy child.
"And now HE pleadeth up in heaven
For our humanities,
Till the ruddy light on seraphs'225 wings
In pale emotion dies.
They can better bear his Godhead's glare227
Than the pathos of his eyes.
"I will go pray our God to-day
To teach thee how to scan
His work divine, for human use
Since earth on axle ran!
To teach thee to discern as plain
His grief divine—the blood-drop's stain
He left there, MAN for man.
"So, for the blood's sake, shed by Him
Whom angels God declare,
Tears, like it, moist and warm with love,
Thy reverent eyes shall wear,
To see i' the face of Adam's race
The nature God doth share."
"I heard," the poet said, "thy voice
As dimly as thy breath.
The sound was like the noise of life
To one anear his death,—
Or of waves that fail to stir the pale
Sere247 leaf they roll beneath.
"And still between the sound and me
White creatures like a mist
Did interfloat confusedly,—
Mysterious shapes unwist251!
Across my heart and across my brow
I felt them droop like wreaths of snow,
To still the pulse they kist.
"The castle and its lands are thine—
The poor's-it shall be done.
Go, man, to love! I go to live
In Courland hall, alone.
The bats along the ceilings cling,
The lizards in the floors do run,
And storms and years have worn and reft261
The stain by human builders left
In working at the stone263."

1.3. Part the Third: Showing How The Vow Was Kept

He dwelt alone, and, sun and moon,
Were witness that he made
Rejection of his humanness
Until they seemed to fade.
His face did so; for he did grow
Of his own soul afraid.
The self-poised God may dwell alone
With inward glorying,
But God’s chief angel waiteth for
A brother’s voice, to sing;
And a lonely creature of sinful nature—
It is an awful thing.
An awful thing that feared itself
While many years did roll,
A lonely man, a feeble man,
A part beneath the whole—
He bore by day, he bore by night
That pressure of God’s infinite
Upon his finite soul.
The poet at his lattice sate,
And downward lookéd he.
Three Christians285wended by to prayers,
With mute ones in their ee.286
Each turned above a face of love,
And called him to the far chapèlle288
With voice more tuneful than its bell—
But still they wended three.
There journeyed by a bridal pomp,
A bridegroom and his dame.
He speaketh low for happiness,
She blusheth red for shame;294
But never a tone of benison295
From out the lattice came.
A little child with inward song,
No louder noise to dare,
Stood near the wall to see at play
The lizards green and rare—
Unblessed the while for his childish smile
Which cometh unaware.302

1.4. Part the Fourth: Showing How Rosalind Fared by the Keeping of the Vow

In death-sheets lieth Rosalind,
As white and still as they;
And the old nurse that watched her bed,
Rose up with “Well-a-day!”
And oped the casement to let in
The sun, and that sweet doubtful din
Which droppeth from the grass and bough
Sans310 wind and bird, none knoweth how—
To cheer her as she lay.
The old nurse started when she saw
Her sudden look of woe.
But the quick wan tremblings round her mouth
In a meek smile did go,
And calm she said, “When I am dead,
And calm she said, “When I am dead,
“Till then, shut out those sights and sounds,
As white she lay beneath;
That I without this pain, no more
His blessed works can see!
And lean beside me, loving nurse,
That thou mayst hear, ere I am worse,
What thy last love should be.”
The loving nurse leant over her,
The old eyes searching, dim with life,
The old eyes searching, dim with life,
The young ones dim with death,
To read their look if sound forsook
The trying, trembling breath,—
“When all this feeble breath is done,
And I on bier am laid,
My tresses smoothed for never a feast,
My body in shroud arrayed,
Uplift each palm 335 in a saintly calm,
As if that still I prayed.
“And heap beneath mine head the flowers
You stoop so low to pull,—
The little white flowers from the wood,
Which grow there in the cool,
Which he and I, in childhood’s games,
Went plucking, knowing not their names,
And filled thine apron full.343
“Weep not! I weep not. Death is strong,
The eyes of Death are dry!
But lay this scroll upon my breast
When hushed its heavings lie,
And wait awhile for the corpse’s smile
Which shineth presently.349
“And when it shineth, straightway call
Thy youngest children dear,
And bid them gently carry me
All barefaced on the bier—
But bid them pass my kirkyard354 grass
That waveth long anear.
“And up the bank where I used to sit
And dream what life would be,
Along the brook with its sunny look
Akin to living glee,—
O’er the windy hill, through the forest still,
Let them gently carry me.
“And through the piney forest still,
And down the open moorland—
Round where the sea beats mistily
And blindly on the foreland; 365
And let them chant that hymn I know,
Bearing me soft, bearing me slow,
To the ancient hall of Courland. 368
“And when withal 369 they near the hall,
In silence let them lay
My bier before the bolted door,
And leave it for a day, 372
For I have vowed, though I am proud,
To go there as a guest in shroud,
And not be turned away.” 375
The old nurse looked within her eyes,
Whose mutual look 377 was gone;
The old nurse stooped upon her mouth,
Whose answering voice was done;
And nought she heard, till a little bird 380
Upon the casement’s woodbine swinging, 381
Broke out into a loud sweet singing
For joy o’ the summer sun.
“Alack! alack!” 384 —she watched no more—
With head on knee she wailèd sore; 385
And the little bird sang o’er and o’er
For joy o’ the summer sun.

1.5. Part the Fifth: Showing How the Vow Was Broken

The poet oped his bolted door
The midnight sky to view.
A spirit-feel was in the air
Which seemed to touch his spirit bare
Whenever his breath he drew;
And the stars a liquid softness had,
As alone their holiness forbade
Their falling with the dew.
They shine upon the stedfast hills,
Upon the swinging tide,
Upon the narrow track of beach,
And the murmuring pebbles pied.399
They shine on every lovely place,
They shine upon the corpse’s face,
As it were fair beside.
It lay before him, humanlike,
Yet so unlike a thing!
More awful in its shrouded pomp
Than any crownèd king.
All calm and cold, as it did hold
Some secret, glorying.
A heavier weight than of its clay
Clung to his heart and knee.
As if those folded palms could strike,
He staggered groaningly,
And then o’erhung, without a groan,
The meek close mouth that smiled alone,
Whose speech the scroll must be.415

1.6. The Words of Rosalind's Scroll:

“I left thee last, a child at heart,
A woman scarce in years.417
I come to thee, a solemn corpse
Which neither feels nor fears.
I have no breath to use in sighs.
They laid the death-weights421 on mine eyes,
To seal them safe from tears.
“Look on me with thine own calm look—
I meet it calm as thou!
No look of thine can change this smile,
Or break thy sinful vow.
I tell thee that my poor scorned heart
Is of thine earth--thine earth, a part—
It cannot vex thee now.429
“But out,430 alas! these words are writ
By a living, loving One,
Adown whose cheeks, the proofs of life
The warm quick tears do run.
Ah, let the unloving corpse control
Thy scorn back from the loving soul435
Whose place of rest is won.
“I have prayed for thee with bursting sobs
When passion’s course was free.438
I have prayed for thee with silent lips,
In the anguish none could see.
They whispered oft, ‘She sleepeth soft’441
But I only prayed for thee.
“Go to!443 I pray for thee no more—
The corpse’s tongue is still.
Its folded fingers point to heaven,
But point there stiff and chill.
No farther wrong, no farther woe
Hath license from the sin below
Its tranquil heart to thrill.
“I charge thee, by the living’s prayer,
And the dead’s silentness,
To wring from out thy soul a cry
Which God shall hear and bless!
Lest Heaven’s own palm droop in my hand,
And pale among the saints I stand,
A saint companionless.”


Bow lower down before the throne,
Triumphant Rosalind!
He boweth on thy corpse his face,
And weepeth as the blind.
’Twas a dread sight to see them so—
For the senseless corpse rocked to and fro
With the wail of his living mind.
But dreader sight, could such be seen,
His inward mind did lie,
Whose long-subjected humanness
Gave out its lion cry,
And fiercely rent its tenement467
In a mortal agony.
I tell you, friends, had you heard his wail,
’Twould haunt you in court and mart,471
And in merry feast, until you set
Your cup down to depart—
That weeping wild of a reckless child
From a proud man’s broken heart.
O broken heart, O broken vow,
That wore so proud a feature!
God, grasping as a thunderbolt
The man’s rejected nature,
Smote him therewith, i’ the presence high
Of his so worshipped earth and sky
That looked on all indifferently—
A wailing human creature.
A human creature found too weak
To bear his human pain!
(May Heaven’s dear grace have spoken peace
To his dying heart and brain!)
For when they came at dawn of day
To lift the lady’s corpse away,
Her bier was holding twain.
They dug beneath the kirkyard grass,
For both, one dwelling deep,
To which, when years had mossed the stone,
Sir Roland brought his little son
To watch the funeral heap.
And when the happy boy would rather
Turn upward his blithe eyes to see
The wood-doves nodding from the tree—
“Nay, boy, look downward,” said his father,
“Upon this human dust asleep.
And hold it in thy constant ken501
That God’s own unity compresses
(One into one) the human many,
And that his everlastingness is
The bond which is not loosed by any!—
That thou and I this law must keep,
If not in love, in sorrow then!
Though smiling not like other men,
Still, like them, we must weep.”509

2. Note on the text

First published under the initials ‘E.B.B.’ in the October 1836 issue of the New Monthly Magazine, “The Poet’s Vow,” like EBB’s other ballads of the 1830s and ‘40s, reflects the ways in which she adapted this traditional genre to modern subject matter (see the “Introduction” to Elizabeth Barrett Browning: An Annotated Selected Critical Edition, Broadview Press). The poem addresses the dialectic of solitude and society, withdrawal and engagement, a theme that pervades Romantic poetry by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats, as well as Tennyson’s early poems. In these preoccupations, “The Poet’s Vow” is linked thematically to the first of EBB’s popular ballads, “The Romaunt of Margret,” published just three months earlier in the New Monthly Magazine. Together, the poems teach “two truths,” as a reviewer noted in 1838: “first, that the creature cannot be isolated from the creature, and second, that the creature cannot be sustained by the creature” (BC 4:400). The epigraph, added in 1838, underscores the poem’s critique of Romantic ideologies of the solitary poet communing with a silenced, feminized Nature, and reflects the intensive engagement with Wordsworth’s poetry prompted by EBB’s first meeting with him at a literary dinner in London on 28 May 1836, and her subsequent journey in Wordsworth’s and Mary Russell Mitford’s company to the Duke of Devonshire’s gardens at Chiswick (BC 3:174n, 205, 217). The subtitles for the poem’s sections were also added in 1838.

The Victorian critic Peter Bayne described “The Poet’s Vow” as the “ethical complement” (Bayne, 38) of Tennyson’s “The Palace of Art,” published in 1832 and revised for Tennyson’s 1842 Poems. Passages in EBB’s poem also invite comparison with Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” (1832, 1842). Some of the parallels with Tennyson in “The Poet’s Vow” emerge from revisions made after its first publication, since in 1836, she had not yet seen his 1832 volume of poems (BC 5:348). The poem was revised for The Seraphim, and Other Poems (1838) and more extensively revised for collection in EBB’s collected editions of Poems (1850, 1853, 1856). Many of the revisions addressed comments on the work’s obscurity and “quaintness” of expression found in the early, mixed reviews: the Athenaeum described it as “a fine although too dreamy ballad,” and Blackwood’s as containing “passages of deep pathos” but “disfigured by much imperfect … writing”—although one reviewer considered it “exquisite, and all but perfect” (BC 3:197, 207-8, 219; 4:379, 384). The poem is written in a ballad stanza, varied in length more freely in later versions. Modern critics have noted the revisionary echoes of Wordsworth in particular; see Cooper (1988), Mermin (1989), Stone (1993, 1995), and Bristow (2004). Stone also considers the poem’s engagement with traditional ballads, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and, in later versions, with Tennyson’s poems. 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

Wordsworth No text.

sate sat.

hall here, the residence of a landowner such as a baron or squire.

cerement’s shroud’s.

refusing . . . dole seemed carved to an endless thought, / No language dared control 1836, 1838.

scathèd blasted, scorched.

To a stagnant place apart Unto a lonely part 1836, 1838. Cf. the soul’s retreat into “A spot of dull stagnation” in Tennyson’s “The Palace of Art” (l. 245).

five-day work alludes to God’s creation of the world in seven days, human beings on the sixth (Genesis 1).

This stanza differs substantially in earliest versions. 1838 reads as follows (1836 is almost identical):
He held his soul above his clay
‘Twixt earth and sea and sky,
T’imbue with shade and wave and cloud
Its immortality—
But the mortal things fell from its wings
And left them hot and dry.
Then follow two stanzas not in 1850 and 1856:
He bathed it in the sea of thought,
Unsensual, rolling aye—
Where God’s unwaning countenance
O’erhung a moonlight sway—
But the tide was dark with the serpent’s mark,
And God’s was turned away.
He looked on all things beautiful,
The shadow o’er them lying—
Gave ear to all things musical,
Whose loudest note is sighing—
He shook to the tone of creation’s groan,
And the voice of Death replying.

Abel’s rose from thee In Genesis 4.10, God hears Abel’s blood crying from the ground after he is murdered by his brother Cain.

blow alluding to Genesis 3, describing the effects of God’s “curse” (see l. 79) on Nature after the fall of Eve and Adam. Ll. 74-77 differ substantially in 1836, 1838.

aye for ever and ever.

rent torn apart.

wonderment a metaphor for his communion with Nature and its wonders, alluding to the wine of the communion service.

ken mystical knowledge.

wended went

twain two

plighted engaged or bethrothed

Friend...Rosalind These parting words by the poet, dealing with the partition of his property and provision of a “dower” or dowry for Rosalind, were repeatedly revised. In 1836, they read, “Sir Roland’s bride being at his side, / And the lands for Rosalind.” In 1838, they read, “For Roland, let my fair bride be-- / And mine house and lands of ancestry, / A dower for Rosalind.”

wassail board board or table holding the bowl of spiced liquor or wine used to drink healths on Twelfth Night and New Year’s Eve.

"And...not." stanza not in 1836.

low humble.

homily a religious or moralizing lesson or discourse.

fain gladly, willingly.

coldly altered from “calmly” 1836, 1838, 1850.

Betrothing Explaining 1836, 1838, 1850, a revision clarifying that their engagement was requested by his dying mother.

brake broke

To . . . die-- Pride is metaphorically represented as a mountain.

create created.

Ay, what . . . given, In 1836, 1838: These three lines are two as follows: “From mystic truths—revealed to man-- / That use his human tone.”

Spirits seven . . . throne Alludes to the seven spirits before the throne of God referred to in Revelation 1.4, 3.1, 4.5, and 5.6. The “MAN” is Christ.

When . . . ween not in 1836, 1838; “I ween,” archaic for “I think.”

seraphs' Seraphim, the highest of the nine choirs of angels, were said to have red wings.

Godhead's glare the intense light of God's divine essence.

Sere withered.

unwist unknown.

reft despoiled.

Go, man, . . . stone." The Gothic effects were intensified by revisions to this stanza. 1836, 1838 more simply read:
Go, man! go, Roland!-I abide
I' the ruined hall, alone-
The wind and rain have washed the stain
Man worked in its stone."

Three Christians suggestive of the holy family, as in a parallel scene in Tennyson’s “The Two Voices,” ll. 403-423 (pub. 1842).

ee eyes.

chapèlle chapel.

A bridegroom . . . shame Cf. Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott,” ll. 69-72.

benison blessing.

Unblessed . . . unaware. Cf. the blessing of the water snakes in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” ll. 284-291 (pub. 1798, 1817).

sans without (French).

palm associated with Christ and holiness; see John 12.12-19.

Which he . . . full. Revised from 1836, 1838, where Rosalind alone plucked the flowers for the nurse, as follows: Which grow there thick and wild— Which I plucked for thee, and thy gramercy [thanks] The pleasant toil beguiled.

shineth presently will soon shine.

kirkyard churchyard.

“And . . . Courland. This stanza, not in 1836, 1838, was added in 1850.

Withal along with the rest.

And . . day And silent wend away 1836, 1838.

"For I . . . away. These strong words, granting a vow to Rosalind as well as to the poet, are significantly altered from 1836, 1838, where she says, “For there, alone with the lifeless one, / The living God must stay.”

For I . . . away. These strong words, granting a vow to Rosalind as well as to the poet, are significantly altered from 1836, 1838, where she says, “For there, alone with the lifeless one, / The living God must stay.”

woodbine a type of climbing plant.

Alack!] an expression of woe .

pied of various colors.

Whose ... be i.e., the words on the scroll must be the speech of the “meek close mouth.”

a child . . . years. a feeble child / In those remembered years 1836, 1838. In this stanza Mermin (1989, p. 65) notes the “unmistakable” echoes of Wordsworth’s poem about the dead Lucy, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” (pub. 1800).

death-weights weights to hold the eyes of the corpse closed

I tell . . . now. Stronger, more vindictive words than in 1836, 1838, which read, “My silent heart, of thine earth, is part-- / It cannot love thee now.”

But out here, an exclamation of lamentation or reproach.

control/ Thy scorn back keep back or keep in check thy scorn for.

bursting . . . free the wailing voice / Thy memory drew from me 1836, 1838.

soft peacefully.

Go to! an expression of disapprobation.

tenement dwelling (i.e., his body, his mind's tenement)

mart marketplace

ken in this context, thought or awareness

That God's ... weep. These concluding lines were substantially revised (perhaps to meet questions concerning their obscurity). 1836 reads:
That God’s own everlastingess
(ONE making one with strong compress)
Man’s sympathies doth keep.
Thou may’st not smile like other men,
Yet like them thou must weep.”
EBB explained the meaning of her conclusion: “I meant to express how the Oneness of God ‘in whom are all things,’ produces a oneness or sympathy (sympathy being the tendency of many to become one) in all things. Do you understand? or is the explanation to be explained? The unity of God preserves a unity in men—that is, a perpetual sympathy between man & man—which sympathy we must be subject to, if not in our joys, yet in our griefs. I believe the subject itself involves the necessity of some mysticism. . . ” (BC 3:219).

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: 18-Feb-2009
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