Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

Gustav Klimt
The Kiss - Dimensions: 180 x 180 cm 
Österreichisches Galerie, Vienna (Austria)
Gustav Klimt (1862 - 1918)
The kiss

A Denial

We have met late---it is too late to meet, O friend, not more than friend! Death's forecome shroud is tangled round my feet, And if I step or stir, I touch the end. In this last jeopardy Can I approach thee, I, who cannot move? How shall I answer thy request for love? Look in my face and see. II
I love thee not, I dare not love thee! go In silence; drop my hand. If thou seek roses, seek them where they blow In garden-alleys, not in desert-sand. Can life and death agree, That thou shouldst stoop thy song to my complaint? I cannot love thee. If the word is faint, Look in my face and see. III
I might have loved thee in some former days. Oh, then, my spirits had leapt As now they sink, at hearing thy love-praise! Before these faded cheeks were overwept, Had this been asked of me, To love thee with my whole strong heart and head,--- I should have said still . . . yes, but smiled and said, "Look in my face and see!" IV
But now . . . God sees me, God, who took my heart And drowned it in life's surge. In all your wide warm earth I have no part--- A light song overcomes me like a dirge. Could Love's great harmony The saints keep step to when their bonds are loose, Not weigh me down? am I a wife to choose? Look in my face and see--- V
While I behold, as plain as one who dreams, Some woman of full worth, Whose voice, as cadenced as a silver stream's, Shall prove the fountain-soul which sends it forth; One younger, more thought-free And fair and gay, than I, thou must forget, With brighter eyes than these . . . which are not wet . . . Look in my face and see! VI
So farewell thou, whom I have known too late To let thee come so near. Be counted happy while men call thee great, And one belovèd woman feels thee dear!--- Not I!---that cannot be. I am lost, I am changed,---I must go farther, where The change shall take me worse, and no one dare Look in my face and see. VII
Meantime I bless thee. By these thoughts of mine I bless thee from all such! I bless thy lamp to oil, thy cup to wine, Thy hearth to joy, thy hand to an equal touch Of loyal troth. For me, I love thee not, I love thee not!---away! Here's no more courage in my soul to say "Look in my face and see."

Change Upon Change

Five months ago the stream did flow,
     The lilies bloomed within the sedge,
And we were lingering to and fro,
Where none will track thee in this snow,
     Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah, Sweet, be free to love and go!
     For if I do not hear thy foot,
     The frozen river is as mute,
     The flowers have dried down to the root:
     And why, since these be changed since May,
          Shouldst thou change less than they.

And slow, slow as the winter snow
     The tears have drifted to mine eyes;
And my poor cheeks, five months ago
Set blushing at thy praises so,
     Put paleness on for a disguise.
Ah, Sweet, be free to praise and go!
     For if my face is turned too pale,
     It was thine oath that first did fail, --
     It was thy love proved false and frail, --
     And why, since these be changed enow,
          Should I change less than thou. 

The Lady's Yes

"Yes," I answered you last night; 
    "No," this morning, Sir, I say.
Colours seen by candlelight,    
 Will not look the same by day.

When the viols played their best, 
    Lamps above, and laughs below---
Love me sounded like a jest, 
    Fit for Yes or fit for No.

Call me false, or call me free--- 
    Vow, whatever light may shine,
No man on your face shall see  
   Any grief for change on mine.

Yet the sin is on us both---  
   Time to dance is not to woo---
Wooer light makes fickle troth---  
   Scorn of me recoils on you.

Learn to win a lady's faith  
   Nobly, as the thing is high;
Bravely, as for life and death---   
  With a loyal gravity.

Lead her from the festive boards,  
   Point her to the starry skies,
Guard her, by your truthful words,
    Pure from courtship's flatteries.

By your truth she shall be true--- 
    Ever true, as wives of yore---
And her Yes, once said to you,  
   Shall be Yes for evermore. 


Mine is a wayward lay; And, if its echoing rhymes I try to string, Proveth a truant thing, Whenso some names I love, send it away! For then, eyes swimming o'er, And clasped hands, and smiles in fondness meant, Are much more eloquent -- So it had fain begone, and speak no more! Yet shall it come again, Ah, friend belov'd! if so thy wishes be, And, with wild melody, I will, upon thine ear, cadence my strain -- Cadence my simple line, Unfashion'd by the cunning hand of Art, But coming from my heart, To tell the message of its love to thine! As ocean shells, when taken From Ocean's bed, will faithfully repeat Her ancient music sweet -- Ev'n so these words, true to my heart, shall waken! Oh! while our bark is seen, Our little bark of kindly, social love, Down life's clear stream to move Toward the summer shores, where all is green -- So long thy name shall bring, Echoes of joy unto the grateful gales, And thousand tender tales, To freshen the fond hearts that round thee cling! Hast thou not look'd upon The flowerets of the field in lowly dress? Blame not my simpleness -- Think only of my love! -- my song is gone.

Sonnets from The Portuguese - XLIII

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of everyday's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with a passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, -- I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.



Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets from The Portuguese (Part 1)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets from The Portuguese (Part 2)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Robert Browning
Love Poems

Dead Poetesses Society

E. Barrett Browning
In het Nederlands

E. Barrett Browning
Auf Deutsch

E. Barrett Browning
Portugese XLIII


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