My Letters! all dead paper... (Sonnet 28)

- 1806-1861
My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!
And yet they seem alive and quivering
Against my tremulous hands which loose the string
And let them drop down on my knee tonight.
This said—he wished to have me in his sight
Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring
To come and touch my hand. . . a simple thing,
Yes I wept for it—this . . . the paper's light. . .
Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed
As if God's future thundered on my past.
This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled
With lying at my heart that beat too fast.
And this . . . 0 Love, thy words have ill availed
If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!

More by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Beloved, my Beloved... (Sonnet 20)

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think 
That thou wast in the world a year ago, 
What time I sate alone here in the snow 
And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink 
No moment at thy voice ... but, link by link, 
Went counting all my chains, as if that so 
They never could fall off at any blow 
Struck by thy possible hand ... why, thus I drink 
Of life's great cup of wonder! Wonderful, 
Never to feel thee thrill the day or night 
With personal act or speech,—nor ever cull 
Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white 
Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull, 
Who cannot guess God's presence out of sight.

When our two souls... (Sonnet 22)

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,  
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,  
Until the lengthening wings break into fire  
At either curvèd point,—what bitter wrong  
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long 
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,  
The angels would press on us and aspire  
To drop some golden orb of perfect song  
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay  
Rather on earth, Belovèd,—where the unfit 
Contrarious moods of men recoil away  
And isolate pure spirits, and permit  
A place to stand and love in for a day,  
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

The Sleep

Of all the thoughts of God that are  
Borne inward unto souls afar,  
Along the Psalmist's music deep,  
Now tell me if that any is,  
For gift or grace, surpassing this— 
'He giveth His belovèd sleep'?  
  
What would we give to our beloved?  
The hero's heart to be unmoved,  
The poet's star-tuned harp, to sweep,  
The patriot's voice, to teach and rouse,
The monarch's crown, to light the brows?  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
What do we give to our beloved?  
A little faith all undisproved,  
A little dust to overweep,  
And bitter memories to make  
The whole earth blasted for our sake.  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
'Sleep soft, beloved!' we sometimes say,  
But have no tune to charm away
Sad dreams that through the eye-lids creep.  
But never doleful dream again  
Shall break the happy slumber when  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
O earth, so full of dreary noises!
O men, with wailing in your voices!  
O delvèd gold, the wailers heap!  
O strife, O curse, that o'er it fall!  
God strikes a silence through you all,  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.
  
His dews drop mutely on the hill;  
His cloud above it saileth still,  
Though on its slope men sow and reap.  
More softly than the dew is shed,  
Or cloud is floated overhead,
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
Aye, men may wonder while they scan  
A living, thinking, feeling man  
Confirmed in such a rest to keep;  
But angels say, and through the word 
I think their happy smile is heard—  
'He giveth His belovèd, sleep.'  
  
For me, my heart that erst did go  
Most like a tired child at a show,  
That sees through tears the mummers leap, 
Would now its wearied vision close,  
Would child-like on His love repose,  
Who giveth His belovèd, sleep.  
  
And, friends, dear friends,—when it shall be  
That this low breath is gone from me,
And round my bier ye come to weep,  
Let One, most loving of you all,  
Say, 'Not a tear must o'er her fall;  
He giveth His belovèd, sleep.'