To Mary Russell Mitford in Her Garden

Table of contents

1. To Mary Russell Mitford in Her Garden

What time I lay these rhymes anear thy feet,
Benignant friend, I will not proudly say 2
As better poets use, “These flowers I lay,"
Because I would not wrong thy roses sweet,
Blaspheming so their name. And yet, repeat,
Thou, overleaning them this springtime day,
With heart as open to love as theirs to May,
—“Low-rooted verse may reach some heavenly heat,
Even like my blossoms, if as nature-true,
Though not as precious.” Thou art unperplext,
Dear friend, in whose dear writings drops the dew
And blow the natural airs,—thou, who art next
To nature's self in cheering the world’s view,—
To preach a sermon on so known a text!

2. Note on the text

A dramatist, poet, short story writer, and editor of annual gift books, Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855) was best loved by early nineteenth-century readers for her sketches of simple country life in Our Village (1824-32). After EBB met her in London in 1836, Mitford became a close friend and literary mentor, primarily through correspondence; over eighteen years EBB wrote her nearly 500 letters. Mitford was acquainted with many notable Romantic and Victorian writers, and the letters between her and the younger EBB carry on lively discussions of authors such as Wordsworth, Byron, Tennyson, and Charlotte Brontë, as well as French and American writers.b Soon after EBB's eldest brother drowned, Mitford in condolence sent the spaniel puppy who became EBB's inseparable companion Flush (see “Flush or Faunus”). An expert gardener, Mitford often sent bouquets to cheer EBB's London sickroom.

3. Explanatory Notes

First published with the title “To Miss Mitford in Her Garden,” suggesting EBB’s deference to the noted author in the early period of their relationship.

benignant kind and gracious.

“Such letters!,” Mitford said of EBB's correspondence with her, expressing her hopes that they would be published (The Letters of Mary Russell Mitford, 2nd series. Ed. Henry Chorley. 2 vols. [London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1872], 192; her own letters are equally engaging.

EBB Archive HomePoemsAbout the EBB Archive

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Date: July 7th, 2009
This page is copyrighted by the EBB Archive